A number of elderly people attending a day care centre in the city must organise their own transport to and from the facility because a HSE West bus service is no longer available.
The bus, which can carry 10 people, is out of action for two weeks so far due to a mechanical problem and the local health authority says it could be a few more weeks before a replacement vehicle is in operation.
Meanwhile, users of the day care service at the HSE run St Francis Home in Newcastle must find their own way there and back.
City councillor and former vice chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum Catherine Connolly, says she is both “shocked” and “angry” to learn the bus service has been withdrawn.
“Quite a number of elderly people attending the day centre rely on the bus taking them there and home and would be lost without the service,” she insists.
“The day care runs five days a week and many attend the service more than one day a week where they have an opportunity to meet other people, participate in activities and also get a dinner.
“However the bus that was in use is now out of action for over two weeks. But even more worrying those attending the day centre were informed by the HSE West that the bus would not be replaced and that they would have to make their own way to the centre from now on.”
However, she states she was later informed by HSE management that the service would be reinstated within weeks.
But she says the current unavailability of this essential bus service is not acceptable.
“It makes a mockery of the health authority’s commitment to the provision of services for the elderly to enable them live as independently as possible in their own homes.
“Moreover, the failure to provide a bus service to allow people attend the day centre, and access the essential services provided there, would have serious implications for the mental and physical health of the elderly residents not attending, and would cost the HSE West more money in the long term.”
Cllr Connolly, a former mayor, said when she raised this matter with the manager of the HSE’s primary care department, she was informed in writing that it is seeking an alternative bus but that it will take a few weeks.
Yesterday (Wednesday ) she received a further email from the HSE saying it had been informed by its maintenance department that a bus is available but it needs modification to be wheelchair accessible
“While the original written response was somewhat reassuring, it is a serious matter of concern that those attending the day centre were led to believe that the bus would not be replaced, and further, that a replacement bus is taking such a period of time,” she claims.
The city councillor says she will be monitor the matter closely and will raise it formally at the next regional forum meeting in Galway at the end of the month.
In a statement, the HSE West outlined that the bus being used to transport service users to St Francis Home is currently out of commission due to a mechanical malfunction.
“The repair of this bus is being undertaken and alternative transport is being sought from within existing resources as an interim solution. This is an important service and the HSE is working to restore it.”