Some 18,000 people have signed a petition to save St Francis public nursing home in the city from closure.
The campaign to keep the 33-year-old Upper Newcastle facility open began in response to a HSE West decision taken last year to close it as a residential home, only operating it as a daycare centre in the future.
The move came 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 Catherine Connolly, a former vice chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum, slammed the health authority’s decision to close the home describing it as “utter madness”.
She said recent figures released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation that 42 patients at University Hospital Galway are awaiting a transfer to long stay facilities makes a strong argument for keeping the nursing home open.
“I am more convinced than ever that the HSE West’s decision to close it is utter madness and has to be reversed.
“Moreover, the 18,000 people who have already signed the Save St Francis Nursing Home petition also agree the decision is not acceptable. 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.
“It is important at this point to quote 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.”
Earlier the city councillor hit out at the HSE West for what she termed its refusal to spend €200,000 on the refurbishment works necessary to keep the facility open. She said this was less than one third of the annual rent on one HSE West building on the Seamus Quirke Road.
She said that given the level of public outrage at the closure it was high time for the government TDs to stand by their commitments.
“These were given at the public meeting held at the Westwood on 26th September where Deputies Walsh, Kyne and Nolan all agreed that St Francis Nursing Home should be kept open and all agreed to arrange an urgent meeting with the Minister for Health, James O’Reilly.”
She claimed since then, however, there has been a “deafening silence” from the Government TDs and the campaign group is still awaiting their response.
The campaign will continue on Shop Street and outside the city’s shopping centres on Saturdays.
“When the promised meeting with the Minister takes place over 20,000 signatures will be presented to him.”