South Westmeath Hospice committee strive for resolution to impasse

An impasse pertaining to the future of the South Westmeath Hospice palliative care unit in Athlone shows no immediate sign of resolution following the conclusion of a meeting between the volunteer committee and HSE representatives in recent times.

The announcement that a formal meeting to discuss the future of the palliative care unit hinted at a semblance of progress but a statement released by the South Westmeath Hospice committee noted their intense disappointment with meeting proceedings as they condemned proposed plans by the HSE to “replace their four bed home with what equates to a mobile home”.

Following a number of months without notable progress, the South Westmeath Hospice committee and relevant HSE authorities met to discuss the proposed transfer of hospice facilities to the new 50 bed community nursing unit planned for Clonbrusk, the long term replacement for St. Vincent’s Hospital on Northgate Street.

Pre-meeting optimism was not realised by the members of the South Westmeath Hospice committee a strongly worded statement noting that updated plans with regard to how the hospice will be accommodated in the new building in Clonbrusk were presented on a “single A3 page which was not to scale with no floor areas noted on the plans and totally unacceptable.”

At the time of going to press, both parties were due to meet yesterday (Wednesday ) with the aim of resolving the long term future for the palliative care unit which was the fruition of a dedicated fundraising ethos from the local community.

Clare Lennon, Chairperson, South Westmeath Hospice committee, noted her frustration and that of committee colleagues with the content of the meeting.

“The HSE want to take our beautiful four bed home and give us what equates to a mobile home instead. While some progress was made, the Hospice committee feels that these are token gestures and fall very far short of what is required to ensure a continuation of the current service provision,” Ms Lennon asserted.

Cllr. Keena demands action from HSE to resolve South Westmeath Hospice crisis.

Empathising with the sentiments expressed by the South Westmeath Hospice committee, Cllr. Frankie Keena, in his role as Deputy Chairperson of the Dublin Mid Leinster HSE Forum, noted his disappointment with the HSE contribution to the recent meeting.

“As Deputy Chairperson of this forum, I shall be attending the forthcoming meeting of the two groups and will be affording my support to the Hospice committee, demanding urgent meaningful action from the HSE to resolve this crisis.

The recent statement made by Ms Clare Lennon, Chairperson of the South Westmeath Hospice committee where she noted that “the HSE want to take our beautiful four bedroom home and give us what equates to a mobile home instead’’ has again raised the frustration and annoyance that this voluntary group is experiencing with the HSE.

It is just not good enough that this matter is being dragged on in this fashion. Does the HSE not realise that it was the financial generosity of the people of Athlone and South Westmeath that provided the capital money to build the current Hospice facility? They should not be allowed with just the stroke of a pen to incorporate a much reduced Hospice unit within the new 50 bed facility at Clonbrusk. It is my understanding that a like for like facility is what is required in Clonbrusk. Unfortunately, the latest proposal from the HSE in terms of facilities offered is far short of what the existing facilities provides,” Cllr. Keena stressed.

The Fianna Fáil Councillor noted that almost one year had passed since the issue of the South Westmeath Hospice palliative care unit relocation had originated and little progress had occurred with regard to resolving the present impasse.

“Just short of a year ago a major coffee morning was organised to raise funds for a public campaign of action to ‘Save our Hospice’ and theproposed campaign was then deferred pending the outcome of talks between both parties.

“It is sad to say that much time has passed and very little has changed but for the fact that the HSE have moved on in selecting its contractor to do the work under the present design.

At a recent Dublin Mid Leinster HSE meeting it was stated that construction is due to start on this 50 bed building early next year with completion in late 2022. So, in reality, the HSE has decided to progress with its new build plans with the additional proposal of including a much scaled down hospice facility on the main floor.

If no progress is forthcoming at the next meeting, I honestly do feel it is then time to start the ‘Save Our Hospice’ campaign in earnest and it should not conclude until an acceptable proposal is realised,” Cllr. Keena concluded.


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