Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
658. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health if he will explain his statements that no decision has been made in relation to the future of public nursing homes, yet at the same time a long-term bed has remained empty in St. Joseph’s in Ardee, County Louth, since October on the orders of the Health Service Executive and they have stated that it will be reduced to a 19 bed unit from the end of March. [10705/12]
Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): As the Deputy is aware the HSE is facing challenges in respect of all services in 2012, and in the case of Community Nursing Units these include challenges regarding staffing, funding and the age and structure of its units. It is clear that on a business as usual basis, the HSE would have to close further beds across a range of public community nursing units in 2012. In the absence of reform, this would increase the cost of caring for older persons within the public system, undermine the viability of public community nursing units and reduce the overall number of older persons that can be supported within the budget available for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. This is not a sustainable way forward and would not meet the needs of older persons, local communities, the taxpayer or those working in the public service.
The Minister has requested that the HSE provide him with a plan which seeks to protect the viability of as many units as possible within the funding and staffing resources available, including smaller units where challenges of scale may require more innovative approaches to service delivery. It is accepted that this will require a combination of actions such as consolidation of services; changes in staffing, skill mix and work practices; age and structure of public units etc. It will also have to take into account different types of services required and the capacity available within an area. The HSE is already examining issues in this regard and will be working closely with the Department to develop an overall set of proposals for the Minister.
It is a matter for the Health Service Executive to deliver services both nationally and locally within its budget; and overall health policy priorities in line with the overall resources available to it. The Executive is currently examining the future use and development of public nursing homes in Co. Louth, taking into account the potential of these units to comply with HIQA standards. In this regard a project group held its first meeting Tuesday, 24th January. The group is working on an optimal appraisal for the most appropriate service delivery model for residential care for Older People in Co Louth. It has agreed a framework, with mid-March as the expected time for completion.
Finally I would like to reassure the Deputy that should there be concern for the future of any unit, the HSE will engage fully in a local consultation process with all stakeholders before any decision is taken.
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