THE Health Service Executive has moved to allay fears about the future of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Athy.
The HSE came under heavy fire at a public meeting, attended by about 50 people, in the town last Thursday.
It followed comments emanating from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation – which represents nurses at the facility – that a 24 bed ward could be set for closure. There are a total of 128 beds at the hospital including specialist beds. The number of regular geriatric beds stands at 103 – about a third of the capacity at the hospital in 1976. James Mahon, chairman of the Athy Hospital Action Group, told the meeting that it was unfair that patients heard of a possible ward closure on radio.
“It is a worry that we still don’t know the full story of the future of the hospital. The hospital is exceptionally well regarded in Athy - we need to know what is happening because there are a lot of people who call it home and feel safe and secure there,” Mr Mahon said.
“People are afraid that more beds could be closed by stealth and the closure of a ward could lead to still more bed closures,” he added.
He said it is imperative that “normal geriatric beds” be retained at the hospital as well as accommodation for patients diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. However according to the HSE services are to be expanded and a meeting with staff has taken place. The changes include an expansion of the number of beds for specialised dementia care, a reconfiguration of long stay beds to a rehab role that will assist in discharging patients earlier from Naas Hospital and a potential expansion of day care services to address the current demand.
“The current bed complement in the hospital is 128. As part of this process the total number of beds in the hospital will fall over time to 120 as this is the number of beds that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) will register the hospital for,” the statement added.
Staff may, following consultation, change their roles in the hospital but there will be no reduction in the overall staff numbers over and above natural turnover as a result of retirements or resignations. The HSE said this development is critical to the overall provision of health care in the county and will address the needs of both patients and Naas Hospital in 2012.
Deputy Jack Wall said a meeting is planned between HSE management and the 3 Kildare South TDs this week but he added that that the new dementia ward would have 10 beds and the step down facility for patients leaving Naas Hospital will have six beds.
“We need to know why St. Mary’s Ward will close and where the patients will go. No TD was aware of a planned ward closure before last Wednesday (November 16),” Deputy Wall said.
Deputy Martin Heydon said he was told there is no intention of closing the hospital but “we have to define a role for it in the future and it will have to be linked with Naas Hospital.”