TD vows to fight to keep St Francis community nursing home open

A local TD is spearheading a campaign to keep a city community nursing home open at its current location.

Fine Gael deputy Padraic McCormack claims the HSE is “deliberately running down” St Francis Nursing Home in Newcastle with a view to closing it in three years and replacing it with a facility to be located on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital.

“In my enquiries with the HSE they tell me that their long term plans are to replace the nursing home with a similar facility in the grounds of Merlin Park. As there is no money available to build this I cannot see such a facility being provided within three years. In any case it does not make any economic or nursing sense to move this unit from Newcastle to Merlin Park even if such a move was possible.”

The Renmore politician, a former member of the now defunct Western Health Board, says he is committed to fighting to save the 30-year-old home for older people.

“I intend to lead a campaign to ensure that St Francis Nursing Home is kept opened in its present location and will be appealing to the Minister for Health and the HSE to provide the necessary finance for its refurbishment or upgrading to again restore the 38 beds which the nursing home is able to cater for.

“The facility initially catered for 40 beds and in recent years, up to a year ago, they catered for 38 residents. Currently there are only 28 beds occupied in St Francis Nursing Home with eight beds being vacant for more than six months.”

He says the reduction in bed numbers is due to the Government’s recruitment ban. “This eventually comes down to no recruitment of staff in the public sector - a Government decision. St Francis Nursing Home has lost eight staff over the past two years and the HSE is not providing the necessary finance to replace the staff. Therefore, every time a bed becomes vacant it cannot be filled because of lack of necessary staff to cater for the current situation.

“It is nothing short of a scandal that apparently the HSE are not providing the necessary funds for staffing and the refurbishment necessary to keep St Francis Nursing Home open and now the HSE are saying that a reduced number of beds at St Francis Nursing Home will not make it viable for the full-time continuation of an occupational therapist there. In other words, it now appears that the HSE are deliberately running down the home so that it can be closed and the plans now are to close the nursing home in three years.”

The facility was inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority in September and November 2009 and recommendations were made, he says.

The report stated the building required general maintenance and refurbishment throughout and that single rooms were too small and did not have ensuite facilities, according to Deputy McCormack. The health watchdog outlined there were insufficient staff numbers and skill mix on duty appropriate to the needs of the residents.

“They recommended that provision of staff numbers and skill mix appropriate to the assessed needs of residents and the size and layout of the centre [Reference Health Act 2008, Regulation 16: Staffing]. It also noted that the residents who spoke to the inspectors were very positive about their experience in St Francis Home. They said that they felt they were well cared for and felt safe in the centre. Residents also expressed a high level of satisfaction with the staff and care they received. They were complimentary about the food and said it was first class. Residents also confirmed that visitors were welcome at all times.”

He says the home has played a major role over the past three decades providing a “wonderful service for elderly people” from mainly the city and surrounding areas.

A spokesperson for the HSE West says there are currently no plans to close St Francis Community Nursing Unit.

“However, it is fair to say that recent events have presented us with serious challenges. The HIQA inspection which took place last year found that we did not have sufficient single en suite rooms at the unit to meet the relevant standards. Conversion of some of the space to provide additional en suite rooms for clients would be costly, however, more importantly it would reduce the capacity of the unit very significantly and may render the unit unviable.

“Reductions in staffing arising out of the moratorium on public service recruitment are being managed by reducing patient numbers.”

She says the health authority is “very pleased” that Deputy McCormack commented on the quality of care provided at the facility.

“Indeed this aspect of the service was also highlighted by HIQA following their inspection of the centre at the end of last year.

“We have some time now to consider the best options with regard to the future of St Francis home. This future will have to be considered in the context of the demand for public long stay beds in Galway city and the resources available to the HSE to meet these demands.”

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