The Community Hospital of the Assumption Action Group has issued a stinging rebuke to the County’s Government T.D.’s this week stating that political point scoring “seems to hold more significance than the wellbeing of our ageing population”.
The Group has also stated that the loss of 22 beds in the Hospital last September “was a devastating blow” to the community and that the 5 which are to be re-opened falls far short of the anticipated final outcome - the reinstatement of all of the 22 Thurles beds.
In a statement to the “Tipperary Star”, the Action Group stated that it wished to address some of the “misconceptions” in the public arena regarding the beds which are to be reopened at the hospital.
“The loss of 22 beds in the Community Hospital of the Assumption last September was a devastating blow to our community and was totally out of proportion with treatment meted out to other community hospitals in the Western H.S.E. area.
The Community Hospital of the Assumption Action Group was formed following this, with the intention of addressing this anomaly. A meeting was held with the Minister for Health on 9th Nov. 2011, in the presence of officials from his department and our elected T.D.’s for North Tipperary. At this meeting we were informed that the Minister was working off the 2011 budget, brought in by the previous government, and that when the 2012 budget came into effect, with some reconfiguration, the 22 beds would be restored by 31st January 2012”.
The Group states that in the unlikely event that this did not come about, the Minister agreed to meet the delegation again. “Having made no progress, nor having had any meaningful correspondence with his department, a second meeting was arranged for 18th April 2012. This meeting was held with the Minister, officials from his Department, and also from the H.S.E. West, and the 3 North Tipperary T.D.’s. Mr O’Reilly stated that he had no recollection of making any commitment as regards the reopening of the beds. Our government T.D.’s who had made such public statements about their influence in securing the initial commitment to have the beds restored, offered absolutely no support to the delegation at this critical time”.
The Group stated that at this second meeting Mr. Reilly instructed H.S.E. officials to engage with the action committee, hospital management and staff in a process to resolve the situation. A meeting with these groups was organised for 21st May.
“When the hospital first opened there were 72 beds in total, with 11 rehabilitation beds, 2 nursing rehabs, 2 palliative care beds, 6 respite beds and 51 long term care beds. There are currently 45 beds available for use in the hospital. These include 11 rehabilitation beds, 2 palliative care beds, and 4 respite care beds, leaving 28 beds available for long term care.
The current proposals for the reopening of any beds are totally dependent on the outcome of ongoing negotiations with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and S.I.P.T.U.”
“A commitment given at the meeting on 21st May, between the hospital action group, the H.S.E. and local management, and our three T.D.’s, was to add 8-12 beds to the current allocation in the North Tipperary area, subject to ongoing discussions between management and staff representatives. We agreed at this meeting that we would make no statement to the media due to the sensitivity of the negotiations in progress. We appealed to the T.D.’s to do likewise. However, within an hour of our meeting, members of the action committee were contacted by the media with regard to a press release received from the H.S.E.
This press release stated that beds would be reopened as follows, potentially 7 for St. Conlon’s, Nenagh, 5 (possibly increasing to 7) for Dean Maxwell, Roscrea, and 5 for the Community Hospital of the Assumption, Thurles. This would add up to between 17-19 beds in total, which was not our understanding of the situation. The Community Hospital of the Assumption Action Group is aware that this falls far short of its anticipated final outcome, i.e. the reinstatement of 22 beds to the Thurles hospital”.
The Group says it intends to continue to work towards its initial goal, particularly in view of the increase in the population of older people, 14.4% in over 65’s and 22% in the over 85’s, as outlined by the Central Statistics Office preliminary report (2012).
“However, we welcome the current initiative, insofar as it is a step forward. We are also aware that this is a work in progress, the outcome of which relies on the commitment of local management, the hospital staff, and the relevant H.S.E. officials, all of whom we wish to thank for their efforts on behalf of our community and our hospital”.
“We wish to express our disappointment at the attitude of our elected representatives in government, as they reflect commitment, more to their own local areas, rather than to services for older people across the whole of North Tipperary. We have insisted on numerous occasions that this is a healthcare rather than a political issue; however political point scoring seems to hold more significance than the well being of our ageing population”.
“Finally the action group wish to state their delight with the opportunity to exchange pleasantries with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Thursday morning on the occasion of his visit to the constituency, and his acknowledgement via official channels of the courtesy extended to him. We look forward to further engagement with him when he has had had an opportunity to review our concerns. The reaction of the Taoiseach is a huge contrast with the response of our government T.D.’s, and indeed that of T.D’s in other constituencies, whose local hospitals have been in similar situations. It seems to have escaped their attention that they were elected to represent the interests of the whole constituency and not just their own backyard”, the group added.