Mayo Fine Gael TD, John O’Mahony, has moved to allay fears over the future of medical cover at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar but concerns are still being expressed regarding the future of the facility.
In a statement this week, Deputy O’Mahony said he has learned that an agreement has been reached for consultant physicians from Mayo General Hospital to ensure medical cover is provided for the Sacred Heart Home when the consultant currently based there takes leave of absence for one year from next month.
“My understanding is that a consultant and senior house doctors from Mayo General will attend at the Sacred Heart Hospital during normal hours and with on-call teams providing an out-of-hours and weekend service,” he said.
He added that he acknowledged the commitment of the medical staff at Mayo General and the management of the HSE in providing the service. “Along with my colleagues An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Health Dr James Reilly, I will continue to work closely with the HSE to ensure that services are maintained at the Sacred Heart Hospital”, stated Dep O Mahony.
Castlebar Sinn Féin Councillor, Thérèse Ruane however has warned that there are now real fears over the future of The Sacred Heart Hospital.
Cllr. Ruane stated: “The Sacred Heart Home is an excellent facility that has played a crucial role in our local health services for many years. It is deeply worrying the rumours regarding the downgrading and reduction in beds at the hospital, which must be protected. It's Alzheimers unit, Stroke unit, day care centre, nursing home, all provide essential quality services for older people in our community. It comes as a shock that the number of beds at the hospital has been reduced to 126. Reducing capacity at the Sacred Heart Home will push elderly patients into the acute hospital system, which is already under severe pressure.”
Cllr Ruane additionally criticised the Fianna Fail party which organised a protest outside the facility last week. “While any resistance and protest to this policy and to any downgrade of the Sacred Heart Home is welcome, I think it is a bit rich of Fianna Fáil to be protesting on policies introduced by themselves while in government. They are just as culpable as this current Fine Gael/Labour government who are merely continuing to implement the failed policies of the previous Fianna Fáil government. It seems to me that the passage of time has had an amnesiac effect on Fianna Fáil representatives”, stated cllr Ruane.
Cllr Ruane further claimed that the Government and HSE now have an “unwritten policy” to close down public provision of nursing home care for older people.
“I believe there is a strategy to close all 120 state-run community nursing homes and move to a model where older people in need of residential care are accommodated in private facilities.
"Last week we saw the closure of St Francis's Community Nursing Home, the last public community facility in Galway. We're seeing a reduction in beds in Community hospitals throughout Mayo including the Sacred Heart Home here in Castlebar. Shutting down beds has a ripple effect accross healthcare and on Mayo General Hospital. It is an extremely short-sighted move that will end up costing our health services more in the long-run.
"The people of Castlebar are genuinely worried regarding the future of this facility and they deserve answers. We have five Oireachtas Government representatives here in Mayo and the Taoiseach is our local representative here in Castlebar. He must provide clarity on this issue as a matter of urgency. We need assurances from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health that there will be no further cuts and that the future of the Sacred Heart hospital is secure.”