Recently, the Dean Maxwell Community Nursing Support Group met with the Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly at Leinster House to seek assurances and clarity with respect to the future of the Dean Maxwell Unit and a restoration of the bed numbers to 27, thus reversing the recent cut in bed numbers to 20.
The Minister assured the group of the future of the Unit and of his commitment to the principle that people should be cared for, in so far as possible, in their own communities. However, while he accepted the desirability of having a greater number of beds, he gave no commitment whatsoever on restoring bed numbers and said that the moratorium on nursing recruitment must remain.
The delegation also used the opportunity to present the Minister with a petition of its demands for the restoration of beds and for the ongoing development of facilities at the Dean Maxwell Home. The petition was signed by over 9,000 people.
The delegation meeting the Minister was led by the Chairperson of the Support Group, Fr. Michael Harding, and was also made up of Theresa Fitzpatrick, John Guilfoyle, Ann Keevey and John Lupton. The group had already met with HSE officials accompanied by Mrs Brona Brophy, the new matron of the Dean Maxwell Home. The group were hopeful that the meeting with the Minster, following its previous meeting with the HSE, might have seen some commitment on restoration of bed numbers. However, the delegation’s meeting with the Minister, which was robust and frank, merely saw an acknowledgment from the Minister of (i) the strategic importance of the Dean Maxwell Home and (ii) the excellence of care delivered by the staff of the Home with the support of the wider community.
While the Minister also acknowledged the community’s feelings with respect to the cut in bed numbers and that while he did point out that he wanted to see more bed numbers, he said that he could do nothing about the existing moratorium on nursing recruitment, as he simply didn’t have the resources, but, hoped that a way would be ultimately found to have additional beds without having to increase overall costs which he said was not sustainable.
The delegation pointed out that the Dean Maxwell Unit had been operating at a much lower average cost per patient than the National average. However, the delegation strenuously pointed out that by reducing its bed numbers from 27 to 20 its “fixed costs” would then be divided by 20, instead of 27, and thus the average cost per patient would be substantially increased. The Minister accepted this point and while, restating his desire for more bed numbers with “the money following the patient” and thus a more economic spread of “fixed costs” over a larger number of patients, he reiterated that he could not interfere with the moratorium of the recruitment of nursing staff for the “Dean Maxwell”, which appears to be the obstacle in the immediate term, at least, to the restoration of beds in the Home.
However, he said that with the ongoing assistance of HIQA that he will be monitoring bed numbers and ensuring that there will be optimum beds operating under budgetary constraints.
The Minister was accompanied, in meeting with the “Dean Maxwell” delegation, by Minister of State, Alan Kelly T.D., Noel Coonan T.D., who arranged the meeting, the HSE Regional Director of Operations for HSE West Region, Mr. John Hennessy; Mr Bernard Gloster, Area Manager of Operations and Ms Marie Bridgeman, Area Community Care Manager, together with other officials of the HSE and officials from the Minister’s own Department of Health, together with his personal assistant.
The support group will be meeting again with the HSE on May 21st to have further discussions on the HSE’s strategy for Community Nursing Care at Dean Maxwell, in the context of Community Nursing Care in North Tipperary which is likely to see a single Director of Community Nursing for North Tipperary.
In this context the Dean Maxwell Support Group would wish to see at least a 27 bed facility for Roscrea and a commitment or the ongoing development of services at the Dean Maxwell Home.