The public are being urged to take part in a solidarity march on Sunday at 2pm being organised by an action group committed to saving St Francis Community Nursing Home in Newcastle from closure.
The group will meet at the Cathedral car park and proceed over the Salmon Weir Bridge, up Eglinton Street and down Shop Street finishing at the Spanish Arch.
The Save St Francis Home campaign, led by city councillor Catherine Connolly, has collected 23,500 signatures calling on the HSE West and the Minister for Health not to close the 33-year-old facility in Upper Newcastle.
The campaign began in July on Shop Street and expanded to outside the city’s churches, shopping centres and housing estates and has been gaining momentum since.
The HSE West announced last year it will close the home as a residential centre, operating it instead as a daycare facility. The decision was taken following an 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 significantly.
Cllr Connolly is accusing local government TDs of having “utterly failed” to honour their public commitment to organise a meeting with the Minister for Health.
“By contrast in Abbeyleix as a result of a protest and public outcry against the proposed closure of their community home, their local Fine Gael deputy was obliged to organise a meeting with the Minister for Health within three days of their protest with a very positive outcome.”
She said the campaign committee has now decided to take the campaign to a further level and has arranged a solidarity march in the battle to save this “wonderful” facility.
“Significantly the number of signatures is now in excess of the signatures collected in support of the anti-incineration campaign which forced a U-turn on the construction of an incinerator in Galway. The campaign to save St Francis Home has reached the tipping point and we are asking the people of Galway to come out and stand with the residents of St Francis. The march will be short and to the point.
“The message has to be communicated to deputies Nolan, Kyne and Walsh that our elderly citizens are not commodities to be moved out of their home at the behest of government imposed budgetary restrictions which make no economic or psychological sense. Furthermore, at the Regional Health Forum Meeting recently the HSE West confirmed that 92 people have qualified for service under the Fair Deal [nursing home scheme] but are still awaiting placement while a further 65 are awaiting assessment.
“Of these patients 46 applicants are occupying acute beds at UHG and Merlin Park hospitals because they cannot be transferred because of lack of funding and/or beds. In addition, there are over 100 beds closed in UHG and Merlin Park with over 7,816 people on an in-patient waiting list for up to 22 months.”
She said it makes “absolutely no sense” to close St Francis’ home. The residents do not want to move and such closure would significantly impact on an already “very troubled UHG”, she stated.
Cllr Connolly said she visited the nursing home recently to update the residents about the Save St Francis Campaign and to show them the signatures.
“They were delighted with the support of the community and confirmed that they do not wish to leave their home.”