Athlone public urged to maintain support for hospice campaign

The Athlone public are being encouraged to maintain their support for the South Westmeath Hospice campaign as the provision of palliative care remains a pertinent issue in the town this week.

As exclusively revealed in the Athlone Advertiser last week, HSE plans to close the facility by the year end have been shelved, but committee members remain wholly committed to the ongoing provision of palliative care within the local community.

In light of the disclosure by Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, that the HSE "hospice plan was not proceeding as outlined", the South Westmeath Hospice committee has written to the public health services organisation requesting further talks pertaining to the initial meeting on August 28, at which the HSE announced its intention to close the palliative care unit. The committee are also seeking further information with regard to the proposed new development of a fifty bed unit at the Clonbrusk Primary Care Centre.

Speaking this week, South Westmeath Hospice committee Secretary, Joe Whelan, noted the urgent need to meet with HSE representatives once again, while urging the local public to persist with their continuous support of the 'Save YOUR Hospice' campaign.

"While the strong support from the Minister is very much welcomed, it is imperative that we meet with HSE representatives to discuss urgent matters relating to the hospice facility.

"We have three clear objectives to achieve and while the Minister's announcement is a positive statement, we must ensure that the HSE honours their letter of 2008 to mirror the current building in the new development at Clonbrusk and also recognise South Westmeath Hospice as the key stakeholder in the delivery of palliative care in the locality.

"There are four palliative care beds in the hospice facility at present and it is essential that a 'like for like' situation is replicated in a similar environment within the proposed Clonbrusk development, plans for which have been submitted to Westmeath County Council," Joe emphasised.

An online 'Save YOUR Hospice' petition has garnered vast signature support to date and with a coffee morning to take place in the Athlone GAA clubhouse on Saturday, September 21, the Secretary believes that the committee has a strong mandate to present to the HSE when both parties reconvene.

Echoing similar sentiments, Chairperson of the South Westmeath Committee, Clare Lennon, noted that dissatisfaction of her colleagues with the lack of hospice facilities in the proposed new unit at Clonbrusk and called for immediate interaction with HSE representatives.

"At the meeting on August 28, the HSE said they would supply our committee with facts and figures around admissions and costs of the current facility within two to three days of the meeting. We, as of now, have yet to receive this information and have sought further clarity in this regard.

This lack of meeting activity, coupled with the fact that Minister Simon Harris stated that he had instructed the HSE to engage with us in a constructive and meaningful manner alarms us even further. The committee expected the HSE to be forthcoming and engaging and neither has happened. The committee stands ready to engage with the HSE to secure the future of the South Westmeath Hospice and we will continue to lobby elected representatives to achieve this also," Clare emphatically stated.

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