Mayor of Athlone, Aengus O’Rourke, believes St Vincent’s Hospital is now worse off than when it was re-opened in spring this year.
He is warning that a crisis will hit the hospital unless the HSE act on "the serious staffing and management issues" that exist there.
St Vincent's reopened after extensive works in April, with 32 beds available for senior care. However, at the time only one floor was reopened and only 18 residents returned to the hospital.
“I raised this issue at the time and accused the HSE of not planning adequately for the reopening of the hospital," Mayor O'Rourke commented. "The hospital was short approximately 10 whole-time equivalent nurses. However, the HSE along with local Government politicians accused me of scaremongering, suggesting instead that it was always the HSE's plan to reopen the hospital on a phased basis, and that the hospital would be fully reopened soon.”
The Mayor says that five months on there is still just one floor open, only 18 patients being cared for, and approximately seven less staff working at the hospital.
"The situation has gone from bad to worse," he continued. “Staff morale is at an all-time low now, with staff handing in their notice on average one every month. I challenge the local Government representatives now to finally get the finger out and realise that this crucial care facility is at risk unless immediate attention is paid to it and a robust recruitment effort is put in place.”
The Mayor said he raised these issues months ago and was accused by those who “clearly know nothing about St Vincent's” of scaremongering.
“Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Make no mistake about it, St Vincent's Hospital is in crisis and sooner rather than later it is going to hit a wall and its future will be thrown into doubt,” he said.
Mayor O'Rourke is calling on the HSE to immediately put a robust recruitment scheme in place to attract new staff to run the facility.
A request for comment has been made to the HSE, but no response was received at the time of going to print.