Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has organised a public meeting to take place in the Talbot Hotel in Belmullet on Monday evening at 8pm to oppose agency staff cuts announced at Belmullet Hospital and Áras Deibhle Nursing Home.
Earlier this week Senator Conway Walsh said: "It is extremely contemptuous that, one week after an election, we learn that, due to pressure on budgets, agency staff can no longer be engaged in Belmullet and that all temporary contracts will not be renewed when they expire. The direct impact of this is that beds will be closed.
"Belmullet Hospital and Áras Deirbhle Nursing home provide essential step-down beds, respite beds and longer stay beds. It is despicable that after 20 beds being cut by the last Fianna Fail Government, this Fine Gael Government now want to cut even more."
Responding to the claims on Wednesday, Minister Michael Ring said: "I have been informed this afternoon by Community Healthcare Organisation West that they are currently staffing significantly more beds than are actually in use at Belmullet District Hospital and Áras Deirbhle. On average, 12 short-stay beds are in use at any given time. As a result they have informed a number of agency staff that their services will no longer be required.
"They have informed me they will keep the situation under review over the summer months and will reconsider the position during the autumn in preparation for the busier winter period.
"In addition, Community Healthcare Organisation West has advised three temporary HSE staff that their contracts of employment would not be renewed when they come to an end over the coming weeks. However, following discussion with staff representatives they have changed this decision and will instead look at redeployment opportunities for these staff members.
"Community Healthcare Organisation West has confirmed to me that the option of using funded Transitionary Care beds in private nursing homes for patients being discharged from Mayo University Hospital remains available.
"I have also been informed that patients were not accepted at Belmullet District Hospital last week due to a lack of available beds at that time. Both Councillor Gerry Coyle and myself have been in constant contact with the HSE over the past few days.
"We will continue to monitor this situation. The District Hospital in Belmullet and Áras Deirbhle, Belmullet, provide extremely important services to the people of Erris and beyond."
Local GP and Fianna Fáil Senator, Keith Swanick, added: "I have written to the Minister to express my dismay at this ill-thought-out decision. As a result of these changes older people will spend longer on trolleys as demand in acute beds in Mayo increases.
"The hospital plays a vital role by acting as a step-down facility for Mayo University Hospital, as it prevents admissions to MUH and facilitates discharges, freeing up capacity at an oversubscribed Emergency Department. It is a very disappointing decision. As medical officer to the hospital there was no prior consultation.
"There is an ageing population in Erris where the hospital plays a vital role. It is totally unacceptable that the most vulnerable elderly patients in the most westerly region in the country should suffer because of overspend on other projects."