With news emanating last week pertaining to the non-HSE management interaction with the South Westmeath Hospice committee, Town Mayor, Cllr. Frankie Keena, has expressed his anger that no progressive consultation with regard to the palliative care unit has commenced.
“I am utterly angered that no progress has been made during recent months through consultation with HSE management regarding the need to keep the South Westmeath Hospice facility in Athlone open. The committee and general public have been misled with promises of meaningful negotiations on this matter.
“When the closure of this amazing facility was first mentioned last year there was quite rightly a massive public outcry against such an occurence and plans were at an advanced stage to hold a major rally in the town. Unfortunately, this was shelved following the offer to open the doors for consultation by the HSE and the Government Ministers. Now it has come to light that these talks were of no benefit, is just not good enough to treat people in this way,” Cllr. Keena reflected.
The Town Mayor declared his intention to raise the pertinent issue at a forthcoming Regional Health Forum meeting.
“At this time, I would urge the Hospice committee to continue the campaign no matter what new offer of consultation is put on the table.
“This proposal is completely contrary to a commitment given by the HSE in March 2008 via a letter to the Hospice group stating that in the event of the provision of new facilities at Clonbrusk, the complete service provision provided from the Hospice building on the St. Vincent’s site would be replicated on the new site.
“The reneging of this commitment is a complete insult to this voluntary committee who have worked tirelessly to provide this excellent facility in order to offer a place of physical, emotional, spiritual and social care to the patient and families as the patient approaches end of life,” Cllr Keena affirmed.
The non-engagement in proactive talks by HSE management with the South Westmeath Hospice committee is an “insult” to both the general public and staff who work at the facility, the Town Mayor emphasised.
“The general public have kindly donated €1.9m euro as capital money to fund the construction of the Hospice. They have not stopped there as they are still kindly continuing to give money to the facility to help contribute towards its ongoing running costs, with €124,000 per year being raised to cover a range of services such as part funding of staff wages, training and maintenance. This facility is the only one of its kind in the country where its construction and part funding of running costs are directly financed via fundraisers.
“It is also not fair on the excellent staff of the Hospice who provide a top class caring and professional service to the patient with huge support to the family.
“This news really is a horrific blow to the patient and loved family members. This Hospice was provided for the patient and families and it cannot be allowed to be taken away from them with the swipe of a pen.
“It is so heartening to have witnessed the widespread public outcry against this HSE proposal and I am calling for the public to once again rally in support of the Hospice committee to make sure that this plan is scrapped,” Cllr. Keena concluded.