21st February 2012

Deputy Michael Lowry has expressed his frustration at Minister Reilly’s failure to meet his promises with regards to the Community Hospital of the Assumption, Thurles. The Independent Deputy for North Tipperary and South Offaly has also slammed the Government for slashing the bed numbers in Community Nursing Units in North Tipperary. Deputy Lowry has stated that recently published HSE Mid-West Service Plan for 2012 spells bad news, not alone for the Community Hospital of the Assumption, Thurles but also for Community Nursing Units throughout the North Tipperary area in particular the Dean Maxwell Unit in Roscrea. Deputy Lowry stated the North Tipperary area is in crisis due to repeated attacks and bed closures by the Government.

Deputy Lowry stated that

“Since this Government has come to power there have been substantial bed closures in community nursing units in both the Community Hospital of the Assumption in Thurles, St. Conlon’s home in Nenagh and now the Dean Maxwell Unit in Roscrea faces bed losses. In Thurles we have suffered the loss of 22 vital respite beds while St. Conlon’s in Nenagh was hit by the closure of 5 beds.”

“Following on from a huge backlash and very successful campaign by the people of Tipperary Minister James Reilly gave a firm promise that he would reconfigure services in the Mid-West Region and would re-open the beds in the Community Hospital at the end of January 2012. It was expected that when the Service Plan for 2012 was published that the Community Hospital promise would be enacted and that the beds would be restored as promised. However the Community Hospital is ominously absent from this Plan and in fact North Tipperary has again targeted for bed losses.”

“We are now in a situation whereby the end of February is almost upon us and the Minister’s promise has yet to become a reality. I am gravely concerned that the Minister will renege on his promise to the people of Thurles and that the Community Hospital may in fact face further cuts. The public are being placated with reports that this issue is still under review and that various reports are being done up to determine the viability of returning these beds to Thurles yet Bernard Gloster the Area Manager for the HSE Mid-west region has said that he is unaware of any such reviews.”

“The reality is that Minister Reilly gave assurances to a delegation from the Community Hospital with full knowledge of the budgetary constraints that he was facing in 2012, he is now backtracking on this promises and looking for an escape by stating that the issue must be reviewed given the finances of his department.”

“In fact instead of returning our beds as promised North Tipperary has again been hit. The Service Plan for 2012 states that the Dean Maxwell Community Nursing Unit in Roscrea will lose 7 of its beds as part of the on-going service reductions. This is an appalling decision and a further attack on this region. North Tipperary has been disproportionally hit but bed losses under Minister Reilly. Why is Tipperary North so badly hit and so disproportionally affected when other regions such as Limerick and Clare have had minimal closures? Our government Deputies are simply not doing enough to fight for and retain our hospital services. This is a government that ran under a banner of maintaining frontline services and the protection of the heathcare system yet we now see what can only be described as another broken promise and a shambolic closure of beds to the detriment of the elderly. Deputies Coonan and Kelly have assured the public that services will be retained in Tipperary and that they are working diligently on this issue. If this is the case why are losing 7 other beds and not regaining the beds that were promised to us?”

“The very real result of this is that elderly people and those that care for them on a daily basis are suffering. With the loss of the beds in Thurles, Nenagh and Roscrea we will have lost over 30 respite beds since this Government has come to power. Respite care provides a vital reprieve for those who are unwell but also provides carers with a chance to recharge their batteries and to sleep easy knowing their loved ones are in safe hands.”

“I must also express my concerns over the crises of staffing that is currently on-going in Nenagh General Hospital. The staff and management there are performing near miracles in keeping services open there despite a gross shortage in staff. They are doing a stellar job in maintaining as many services as possible in a hospital that is at crises level with regards to a shortage of staff. 17 nurses have left the Nenagh Hospital in the last number of months. Despite the valiant efforts of remaining staff they have already been forced to merge 3 units into 2. The hospital has now seeking permission for the sanctioning of ten further nurses to allow them to continue to provide their vital services.  I will be petitioning Minister Reilly to ensure that these staff are allocated as a matter of urgency to allow the hospital to continue to grow.”