Pressure on Varadkar to address Sacred Heart Hospital ‘crisis’

Members of Roscommon County Council are to seek an urgent meeting with Minister for Health Leo Varadkar with a view to securing an estimated €11m in Capital funding to carry out works which may be required to save the Sacred Heart Hospital in Roscommon town.

  At a special meeting of the Council held last Friday to discuss growing concerns about the future of the facility, councillors of all political persuasions were unanimously of the view that the onus lies with Minister Varadkar and the HSE to address concerns raised about the hospital by so-called health watchdog HIQA.

  Following a 90-minute meeting – attended by about forty members of the public, including Sacred Heart Hospital staff and relations of residents there –councillors agreed to a number of actions.

  They will (a) seek an urgent meeting with Minister Varadkar; (b) write to the HSE expressing their concerns and (c) correspond with the leaders of the main political parties seeking clarification of their position on the Sacred Heart Hospital ahead of the forthcoming General Election.

  Friday’s meeting, attended by sixteen councillors (there were apologies from Cllrs. Michael Creaton and Orla Leyden) was called at the behest of HAC Councillor Valerie Byrne. Prior to the afternoon meeting a HAC delegation held separate meetings with councillors from Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein to try to establish the policy of the respective parties as it relates to the Sacred Heart Hospital.

  A feature of the contributions during Friday’s meeting was the strong view that while HIQA has raised some concerns about the hospital, its fate will be determined by politicians. There was strong criticism of Fine Gael, with councillors drawing parallels between the current fears about the Sacred Heart Hospital’s future and the closure of Roscommon A&E in 2011.

  Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council Cllr. Paddy Kilduff opened the meeting by saying that councillors were all “singing from the same hymnsheet” and that proved to be the case, with the two Fine Gael councillors present – Maura Hopkins and John Naughten – also fully supporting the Sacred Heart Hospital and placing a clear onus on Health Minister Leo Varadkar to take the action required  to secure its future.

  Cllr. Valerie Byrne, at whose instigation the meeting was being held, said that it was “sad” that councillors had to gather again for a special meeting because “HIQA are again doing the dirt in Roscommon.”

  However she acknowledged that HIQA “didn’t make the rules” but that they were “handed to them” by Government.

  Cllr. Byrne said that all HIQA had been able to complain about was the fact that there are “too many beds” in certain sections of the Sacred Heart Hospital, yet, she pointed out, it’s the case that many residents don’t want to be in a private room.

  Demanding that the facility be included in the next five-year Capital Investment Programme – to be announced by Government in the coming weeks – Cllr. Byrne said that Minister Varadkar must not be allowed to push forward with his plans for privatisation.

  Councillors expressed serious concerns that no new patients will be admitted to the Sacred Heart Hospital from September. They stressed that while residents who are currently in the facility should have no worries about having to leave, a ban on new admissions will inevitably represent downgrading and probably lead to eventual closure. 

  After all councillors had their say it was decided that an urgent meeting will be sought with Minister Varadkar. Cllr. Hopkins of Fine Gael said that she will contact Deputy Frank Feighan to ask him to arrange the meeting.

  Councillors also agreed to write to the HSE with their concerns and to contact  the leaders of political parties in the Dail to establish each party’s policy on the Sacred Heart Hospital.