A city councillor has hit out at the HSE West for what she terms its refusal to spend €200,000 on the refurbishment works necessary to keep St Francis Nursing Home in Upper Newcastle open.
Cllr Catherine Connolly, a member of the health authority’s regional health forum, slammed the HSE for justifying the closure of the 33-year-old public home for “such a miserly sum”.
She said it was less than one third of the annual rent on one HSE West building on the Seamus Quirke Road.
“To justify the closure of this wonderful facility for such a miserly sum - which is less than one third of the annual rent on one HSE West building on the Seamus Quirke Road - and/or to justify the closure because of lack of staff in a country where almost a half million are unemployed and nurses emigrating on a daily basis, beggars belief.”
Cllr Connolly, whose campaign to save the facility from closure has collected 12,000 signatures, says Galway people are angry with the HSE West for proposing to close the home, the only public nursing home on the west side of the city and in the entire city outside of specialised units at Merlin Park.
The health authority decided last year to close the home - only operating it as a daycare centre in the future - in the wake of a inspection by the HSE regulator HIQA which made several recommendations to enable it to meet new nursing home standards. The HSE said at the time that complying with this request would mean major and costly changes and would reduce the capacity of the unit very significantly.
Cllr Connolly, who had set a target of collecting 10,000 signatures to save the home, says the petition now boasts 12,000 names. The campaign continues on Shop Street and at local shopping centres on Saturdays.
“We have 12,000 signatures saying do not close this wonderful facility,” says the city councillor. “People in Galway are clearly angry both with the HSE West for proposing to close such a wonderful facility and also with the Minister for Health and the Government for condoning such a decision while 33 acute beds in the regional hospital are occupied by elderly vulnerable patients who are awaiting transfer to nursing homes, not to mention the number of elderly residents living in the community who are also awaiting nursing home beds.
“Furthermore it is important at this point to quote again from the HIQA inspection report from September 2009 and more recent reports in May 2010 and January 2011 which clearly confirm that inspectors ‘were satisfied that residents’ nursing, medical and healthcare needs were adequately met’ and further that ‘the food was excellent’. The inspector’s primary concern was in relation to the necessary refurbishment to the building and staff shortages.”
She urged local TDs and councillors to show solidarity with the people of Galway and stop this “nonsense about closure”.
A public meeting will be held on Monday night at 8pm at the Westwood Hotel to give local TDs and councillors an opportunity to meet the committee running the ‘Save St Francis Nursing Home’ campaign and to get an update on the signatures and content of the “very positive” HIQA reports.
“Most importantly however the meeting will also give an opportunity to the TDs and senators to stand with the people and take this matter to the Minister for Health for his urgent intervention.
“Personal letters of invitation have been sent to the five TDs, Derek Nolan, Brian Walsh, Eamon O’Cuiv, Sean Kyne, and Noel Grealish, as well as to senators Fidelma Healy Eames and Trevor O’Clochartaigh and to all the councillors.”