As the South Westmeath Hospice committee continue to raise and enhance public awareness regarding matters pertinent to the future of the palliative care unit in Athlone, a welcome development will occur on Thursday evening (September 26 ), as the HSE has formally invited the local volunteer group to meet with the Head of Social Care, Mr. Jude O’Neill, as negotiations pertaining to the future of the facility commence in earnest.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, Joe Whelan, South Westmeath Hospice Committee Secretary, welcomed the development, the result of a letter penned by the committee seeking a face to face meeting with HSE management.
“We are now entering into a period of negotiation with the HSE and we will be stating our case most vehemently during the meeting on Thursday evening,” Joe emphasised.
News that a formal meeting is to take place between both parties follows the successful hosting of a coffee morning in the grounds of Athlone GAA on Saturday last during which support for the South Westmeath Hospice cause was visibly apparent.
“In excess of 1,500 members of the local public attended the coffee morning, an affirmation of strong support for the committee. It was a very emotional occasion as family members whose loved ones had passed away in the Hospice were present as we celebrated all that is most positive with regard to the palliative care unit,” Joe remarked.
As the ‘Save YOUR Hospice’ campaign continues to gain momentum, a public rally in further support of the cause will take place on Saturday, October 19, commencing from Burgess Park.
Clare Lennon, South Westmeath Hospice Chairperson, acknowledged the ongoing public support for the campaign. Despite confirmation of a meeting with HSE management, she has expressed thoughts of caution as the future of the facility comes under scrutiny in a formal setting.
“We are continuing our campaign to save our hospice. The meeting with Minister Simon Harris allowed the committee some breathing space but the future of the facility is still very much in doubt.
“We need political action now including clarification on what Minister Harris informed HSE management with regard to the hospice.
“Furthermore, we also need clear and unambiguous statements from all of our politicians, detailing a robust expression of dissatisfaction and lack of confidence with HSE management as we urge the relevant personnel to ‘think again’ with regard to the future of the South Westmeath Hospice.
“Our committee will continue to work hard and lobby to secure the future of the South Westmeath Hospice, as we demand the letter of guarantee from the HSE is honoured and fulfilled.
“We all want the services funded by the people of South Westmeath to be reinstated in a way that delivers them most effectively. Token statements are not enough and the committee now wish to see a commitment written into future plans and leadership from the HSE management in this instance,” Clare reiterated.
Details of the rally will be made known in the coming days with Clare encouraging members of the public to embrace the campaign as it progresses.
“I would implore members of the public to continue with their support of our campaign and they can do so by signing the online petition on our Facebook page, tweet the HSE, wear our sunflower, write to the HSE locally expressing their satisfaction at the proposals and advise family and friends with regard to our aspirations,” Clare concluded.