The future of the South Westmeath Hospice was called into question at Monday’s Athlone Municipal District meeting.
Councillors Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Aengus O’Rourke, and Paul Hogan all highlighted the issue asking that the municipal district write to the HSE to find out why the hospice in Athlone has been closed for the last five weeks.
Cllr Moran said that he had been given several excuses as to why the hospice wasn’t accepting patients including a flu outbreak, insufficient number of patients, and then staffing issues.
“There have been no patients admitted since around Christmas,” he added. “The HSE never tell us what their plans are for the hospital, I want to find out the truth.”
Cllr Moran suggested the municipal district write to Joe Ruane of the HSE looking for clarity.
Cllr O’Rourke agreed. “I’ve been inundated with people concerned. The people of South Westmeath, South Roscommon, and the Midlands came up with the idea, funded it, and built it,” he said.
“Minister Harney said we built it she would staff it - now staff are being redeployed and people are being denied beds.
“I don’t accept that you need a quota, this isn’t a numbers game,” Cllr Aengus added.
“We’re talking about the most vulnerable in society,” explained Cllr Hogan. “I’ve heard all the excuses, Joe Ruane needs to come in and talk to us. He has a history of dodging us.
“Our health care has been decimated. The hospice is an essential service, and is vital to the area,” he said.
Cllr John Dolan said he was fully behind his three colleagues. “It’s a no-brainer. This is a non-political issue... People of Athlone put their hand in their pockets for this. People have provided their half of the contract, now the HSE have to provide theirs.”
Councillors Farrell, Keena, and O’Brien also raised concerns over the four bed hospice at St Vincent’s Hospital.
Cllr Keena said that he had asked Pat Bennett, the new chief officer at the HSE whose responsibilities include Athlone, to meet with councillors.
“There are people waiting to get in. Hopefully someone is being admitted today,” added Cllr Moran.
Cllr O’Rourke said that the hospice is needed in the town and should be there whether they’re waiting on their first patient of the week or are full.
In a statement released by the HSE on Tuesday it was stated that, “The HSE will continue to engage positively with South Westmeath Hospice and arrangements between these parties will be outlined via a Memorandum of Understanding, which will be signed presently”.
No other information has been released.