GOVERNMENT plans will decimate residential care in the Finn Valley, Sinn Fein councillor Gary Doherty, has said.
Councillor Doherty has criticised Government plans to end long term residential care at Lifford and St Joseph’s Community Hospitals as part of its recently announced programme of refurbishment and replacement in public nursing homes across the state.
Commenting on the programme, which will see the removal of long term residential care services at Lifford, St Joseph’s and Ramelton Community Hospitals and replaced by a new 130 bed Community Nursing Unit in Letterkenny, Cllr Doherty says that the plans will decimate services in the Finn Valley and has now called for a public meeting to discuss the move.
He said: “The plans announced yesterday (Tuesday) by Fine Gael and Labour in their Capital Programme indicates the removal of long term residential care beds at Lifford and St Joseph’s Community Hospitals and this is something which we as a community cannot allow happen.
“In recent weeks I have been extremely vocal in my concern regarding the long term future of both Lifford and St Joseph’s Community Hospitals given the on-going reductions made to staff and beds at the units in recent years.
“The unveiling of these plans yesterday by the Government has confirmed what many had feared for some time now as it has now been revealed that long term residential care will be removed from the units and will be transferred to a new facility in Letterkenny with completion expected by 2021.
“Clearly what this shows is that the health and social needs of the people of the Finn Valley, particularly our most vulnerable, does not matter to this administration and it is appalling that these plans are being announced in such a way as to make them appear to be a positive when in reality they will result in the removal of vital services from the area.
“Furthermore, it is not even clear what the benefits of these plans will be or what additional bed capacity if any will be created.
“St Joseph’s in Stranorlar has maintained 67 in-patient beds in total since 2013, at Lifford the last HIQA report put occupancy at 20 while four residents were in receipt of long term residential care. Ramelton Community Hospital had 22 residents at the time of an inspection last year all with varying levels of dependency.
“The question which now needs to be answered is what will happen to designated bed numbers at these hospitals and to what extent will they be reduced? Is it that these units will maintain their present capacity but only provide short stay care to patients and – if so -will long term residential care services be completely stripped away?
“It’s claimed that this programme will deliver 215 additional beds by 2021, however this is completely inadequate as present projections show that demand will be much greater than this in the years ahead, which would leave one to wonder why any government would be in favour of removing residential care units.
“Public long stay units across the state have an occupancy rate of 92%, while this is even higher in some areas at 98%, meaning that we are dangerously close to maximum capacity as we are.
“I have now asked my party colleague Deputy Pearse Doherty to raise these points with the Minister this week in the Dáil because the future of these facilities must be made clear.
“I have also been in touch with personnel at both Lifford and St Joseph’s hospitals because naturally there is now widespread anger as a result of these plans particularly given the uncertainty which remains around the long term viability of these units.
“Accordingly, I am now calling for a Public meeting so that people from right across the Finn Valley can gather together and have their voices heard and show their opposition to these plans which they were never even consulted about prior to this announcement. We must demand answers from the HSE and the Department of Health.
“As a public representative, I pledge to continue to work closely with personnel from the hospitals and also to work alongside members of the public to support them in their campaign to have these facilities remain open.”