In a positive and most welcome development, the HSE has withdrawn its proposal to close the South Westmeath Hospice.
The news emerged following the conclusion of a meeting between members of the South Westmeath Hospice committee and HSE management who met on Thursday night last as an initial step in moving to a consultative process with the aim of maintaining a palliative care unit presence in Athlone.
While an air of positivity lingers pertaining to matters, Clare Lennon, Chairperson, South Westmeath Hospice Committee, urges caution with regard to the meeting’s outcome.
“Our committee refused to progress any further with the HSE until plans to close the South Westmeath Hospice were fully withdrawn. As a committee we could not simply engage in a consultative process knowing that the threat to close the Hospice remained.
“I cautiously welcome the statement from the HSE in this regard. Trust must now be rebuilt and we have much work to do to bring the facilities and services back to what they were. This first step by the HSE is of an olive branch nature. We were always willing to engage in meaningful discussions and now feel we can begin this process,” Clare remarked.
The Chairperson insisted that the HSE revise the Hospice admissions policy, taking on board committee input and ensure relevant services to which the people of South Westmeath are entitled will be reinstated.
“It is also paramount that the HSE honour our letter of guarantee. As a committee we want an outcome that serves the people of South Westmeath in the best possible way,” Clare emphasised.
Reflecting upon the decision to maintain a fully operational palliative care unity facility in Athlone the HSE acknowledged that they were committed to building a working relationship with the South Westmeath Hospice committee and relevant stakeholders.
In a post meeting statement, the public health and social care services organisation declared their intention to commence a consultative process with immediate effect to address issues surrounding the patient admissions policy to the Hospice facility and reconsider the plans for the new site at Clonbrusk.
Further endorsing the positive outcome of the meeting, Joe Whelan, Secretary, South Westmeath Hospice Committee, praised the vast public support as they strived to maintain an operational Hospice presence in the town.
“As a committee we could not have achieved the withdrawal of the plans to close the South Westmeath Hospice without the support we have had from both people in the area and the business community.
“We were overwhelmed with the support and offers of assistance and indeed the presence of over 1500 people at our coffee morning held in Athlone GAA clubhouse recently.
“This outpouring of support helped us demonstrate to HSE management the importance of the hospice to the people and the high esteem in which it is held. We are thankful and very proud of what our community has achieved. We have a long way to go but we have made another step in the right direction,” Joe highlighted.