Councillors demand €11m to save facility

Cllr. Valerie Byrne of the HAC said it was sad that councillors were gathering again after HIQA had “again done the dirt on Roscommon.”

  However she added that HIQA don’t make the rules and the HAC councillor held the Government responsible for the current threat to the Sacred Heart Hospital.

  Noting that a facility in Castlebar has received €14m in funding, Cllr. Byrne said that the Sacred Heart Hospital must be included in the next Capital Building Programme.

  In a later contribution, Cllr. Byrne said that what’s needed is a two-storey 50-bed unit which, she argued, must be included in the Capital Building Programme which is soon to be confirmed. She stressed that there is no threat to existing patients in the Sacred Heart Hospital at the moment but “others won’t be able to get in.”

  Cllr. Eugene Murphy (Fianna Fail) said that Health Minister Leo Varadkar is “very cleverly” privatising the health system. He said his fear is that the Government will try to close the Sacred Heart Hospital and open an unit in the County Hospital.

  Cllr. Murphy called for a clear statement from Minister Varadkar to the effect that the Roscommon facility will remain open and also called for the provision of €11m for works there.

  “This,” he said, “is shameful for staff and families of residents”, adding that Fianna Fail are committed to the facility remaining open.

  Cllr. John Naughten (Fine Gael) said that it is vital that Capital investment be secured and that the hospital is included in the next five-year programme or else “there are grave concerns.”

  Stating that confirmation is required from Minister Varadkar, Cllr. Naughten formally proposed that a delegation from the Council seek a meeting with the Minister for Health “to outline the gravity of the situation…and the implications for the county.”

  Cllr. Laurence Fallon (Independent) said that people should be in no doubt that this is a “political decision.”

  He added: “It’s up to the Minister and the Government to instruct the HSE…it would be unthinkable for this Government to downgrade two hospitals (in Roscommon) in the lifetime of this Government.”

  He said if admissions cease it will be a problem as most of the income is through the Fair Deal scheme.

  Later in the meeting Cllr. Fallon made a second contribution, proposing that the Council writes to HIQA and asks that the proposed ban on admissions from September be deferred. He also requested that the Council writes to the HSE executive “to outline our anger.”

  Cllr. Tony Ward (Independent) expressed the view that private nursing homes cannot provide the facilities which are available in the Sacred Heart Hospital. He said that if the hospital is downgraded and no new patients are admitted after September, the facility’s viability will then be questioned. It was his view than an investment of just €170,000 is required in the short-term.

  Cllr. Michael Mulligan (Sinn Fein) asked: “Has Enda Kenny got something against Roscommon?”

  Cllr. Mulligan continued: “We have no A&E, so it (the County Hospital) doesn’t qualify as a hospital. Now we cannot look after our own people…and you should judge a country on how it looks after its young people and its old people.”

  Noting that Fine Gael had issued “false promises” in the past, Cllr. Mulligan said that Fine Gael Councillors Hopkins and Naughten should have had word back from Minister Varadkar by now.

  A concern of Cllr. John Cummins’ (Fianna Fail) was the fact that nursing homes bed in the private sector can be difficult to come by. He noted that there is a waiting list in all three such facilities in Boyle.

  Cllr. Cummins wanted to see the required €11m sanctioned without delay.

  “We need to look beyond bricks and mortar and costs…we need that money (the €11m required) and it must become before the General Election.”

  Cllr. Rachel Doherty (Fianna Fail) launched a strong attack on the Fine Gael-led government.

  “It’s shocking that we have another health crisis in Roscommon….we have no political clout…if the Government closes or downgrades the Sacred Heart Hospital, through HIQA, let no Fine Gael candidate come knocking at a door…”

  Cllr. Kathleen Shanagher (Independent) emphasised the importance of ‘people power.’ She said: “People should write to the Minister…people power is needed. There’s an election coming up, write to the Minister, make your view known, and tell him you won’t be voting Fine Gael…”

  Independent Councillor Domnick Connolly agreed with Cllr. Ward that the Sacred Heart Hospital has some facilities that some private nursing homes don’t have. He was concerned about bed availability in the future.

  Cllr. Connolly said that no one could question his commitment to the health service in Roscommon; he had “walked from Fine Gael” after a lifetime in the party. The electorate had only voted in three Fine Gael councillors in the 2014 local elections and that, said Cllr. Connolly, showed the groundswell of support there is for the stance he and others took on the County Hospital issue.

  Cllr. Ivan Connaughton (Fianna Fail) called for Cllr. Maura Hopkins to address this threat. What was happening was not acceptable he said, adding “I won’t stand for it…this Government has no regard for Roscommon…we saw it with the A&E. Now we have another fight on our hands and I feel sorry for the staff and the families.”

  Cllr. Connaughton proposed that the Council writes to all party leaders to clarify what their position is on this issue.

  Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice (Fianna Fail) said it’s “shameful” that this threat is posed to the county’s old people. Alluding to Fine Gael’s promises on retaining Roscommon A&E before the last General Election, Cllr. Fitzmaurice appealed to people “not to be fooled a second time.”

  “We deserve better, we’re as good as the people of Castlebar,” Cllr. Fitzmaurice said, calling for an immediate pledge of €11m to address works at the Sacred Heart Hospital as well as assurances that patients will be admitted.

  Cllr. John Keogh (Fianna Fail) also called for immediate investment. He said if there’s a “prohibition” on taking in patients the facility will close because its viability will then have become an issue. He called on Cllr. Hopkins to take a clear message to Minister Varadkar.

  Cllr. Nigel Dineen (Independent) said it is a disgrace that we have to fight for the elderly people of County Roscommon.

  He said the Government doesn’t care about the West of Ireland and certainly doesn’t care about Roscommon.

  “We need the full funding, we deserve equality in Roscommon,” Cllr. Dineen said, pointing out that the Government have “used their muscle” with great effect to fund a facility in Castlebar. Cllr. Dineen later said that Senator John Kelly of Labour should also be contacted on this issue.

  Cllr. Paddy Kilduff (Fianna Fail), Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, said that everyone was singing from the same hymnsheet and everyone wanted to see the facility remain open. Thanking members for “a very constructive meeting” Cllr. Kilduff said that Cllr. Hopkins will ask Deputy Frank Feighan – “an honourable man” – to arrange a meeting with Minister Varadkar.

  All councillors praised staff and the level of care at the facility. They also noted that patients in the Sacred Heart Hospital are happy with the facilities and level of care.