HSE urged to keep open ‘wonderful’ nursing home

A former vice chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum is calling on the health authority to rethink its decision to close St Francis Nursing home in Upper Newcastle as a residential facility.

Councillor Catherine Connolly told a meeting of the forum in Galway this week that the home was “wonderful” and the decision to close it “beggared belief”.

A motion tabled by her on the issue was passed by forum members.

The HSE West announced last year - to public outcry - that the 33-year-old facility will operate as a daycare centre in the future. The decision came in the wake of an inspection by the Health Information and Quality Agency - the regulator of the HSE - which made several recommendations to enable the facility to meet new nursing home standards.

The HSE said at the time that complying with HIQA’s requests would mean reducing the number of bedrooms at the home to meet the demand for single en suite rooms. A family visiting room, large sitting room and space for storage would also have to be facilitated. Apart from the cost of these changes, the HSE said they would have resulted in a very significant reduction in bed numbers.

Cllr Connolly said HIQA found “nothing wrong” with the home and described the food and service there as “wonderful”.

“The people of Galway love it. I’m asking forum members to support me in my motion. There is no basis for closing a fantasic facility. There is constant representation to councillors to get people into it. It is on the right side of town for people to visit their relatives.”

Forum chairperson Cllr Padraig Conneely says he visits the home quite often because it is located close to where he lives. He said he would describe it not as a nursing home but a “home from home”. He said it was friendly and he praised the staff saying there was something special about them.

“I saw a report where patients were interviewed and they said it was like a hotel. They said the food was great. I wouldn’t like to see it close, it is very much part of Galway. There are old Galway city people there and their relatives can visit them on a daily basis. It is a good facility, a homely facility and it is worth retaining.”

John Hennessy, the HSE West’s regional director of operations, said there were more public long-stay beds in the west than were needed. There are more than 50 community nursing units in the west and a great number do not comply with HIQA standards, which the HSE regulator will insist on by 2013.

He stated the Fair Deal nursing home scheme - which provides financial aid to people in need of long-term nursing home care - makes no distinction between public and private facilities as far as patients are concerned. He said patients are “voting with their feet” and are moving into private facilities. The HSE had to make “hard choices” he said and was carrying out its own assessment of public long stay facilities in the west. A report on it would be available in the autumn.

Tony Canavan, the general manager of the HSE’s primary, community and continuing care service in Galway, told the meeting that the HSE decided from September 2010 not to accept any further admissions for its residential service.

He said it was important to look at different types of care and residential care was one significant part of this. He outlined St Francis’ home will have a very important role to play in providing daycare into the future. While it operates a five day service currently it proposes to provide a “more elaborate” daycare service for more people, increasing the numbers attending and the hours of service, he said.

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