The campaign for a new community hospital in Carrick-on-Shannon and restoration of nurse led services at St Patrick's Hospital has escalated to a priority election issue.
The Friends of St Patrick's Hospital have become “very disillusioned by the lack of progress made and by the ambiguity and the lack of clarity” from the Department of Health and the HSE.
They have announced that the restoration of nurse led services at St Patrick's and the future of a new HSE nursing home in the county town is the top priority election issue for the county.
Leitrim has the highest dependency ratio (57% ratio of over-65s to the rest of the population) in Ireland and so the care of the elderly is an issue that affects every voter.
The local group are in the process of contacting all election candidates for the General Election to put forward a commitment to the provision of five day nurse led care, a new 90 bed community hospital along with written proof of their commitments from party leaders.
The group intends to inform the public of the politicians' “credible” responses in the run up to the election and to put forward their political position.
They are also seeking clarity through the Freedom of Information Act concerning the existence of an application for a replacement community hospital in Carrick-on-Shannon.
Despite the HSE telling a public meeting last October that it has a site which is just “awaiting approval,” Minister Leo Varadkar told representatives that no application or plans for a new hospital had been received by him.
In correspondence to Leitrim County Council in December, Frank Morrison, General Manager of Community Services in the HSE for Sligo Leitrim, said the “HSE’s aim is to provide a nurse led Therapeutic Day Hospital.”
He said there are plans to increase the level of service available at the day hospital including a Falls Clinic to help assess and refer patients at risk of falling and a Specialised Tissue Viability Clinic which is expected to commence in early 2016.
Mr Morrison said “Ongoing discussions have taken place with all clients, families, GPs and Public Health Nurses in relation to the recent changes to the day hospital.”
But the Friends of St Patrick's say no discussion has taken place with patients, family members or local GPs and the loss of these services is hitting local families hard.
Despite being promised a return to nursing led care, it “has not materialised.”
The group, which includes local GP Dr Kieran Greene, dispute the recent HSE review of services which found no patients attending St Patrick's Day Care requested nurse led care.
With just over a month to the general election, Friends of St Patrick's Hospital are asking all voters to ask canvassing politicians about their commitment to elderly care.