Following a meeting with representatives of the Leitrim County Council last week, the HSE has issued a statement saying it is “committed to retaining and developing a Community Hospital in South Leitrim, with Carrick-on-Shannon as the base”.
However, the HSE also acknowledge that, like many public units in Ireland, “St Patrick’s has significant challenges in meeting the regulatory requirements on infrastructure for 2015 and this would require significant ongoing investment in the facility.
The news came after fears were raised about the future of St Patrick’s Hospital following cuts to bed numbers in recent years. Councillors Francis Gilmartin, Sinead Guckian, Enda Stenson, Martin Kenny, John Ward and Sean McGowan attended the special meeting with the HSE on Tuesday, January 15.
According to Cllr Francis Gilmartin, who sought the meeting with the HSE, bed numbers have been cut from 119 to 85 in recent years and he said there were genuine concerns that further cuts would be coming down the line.
Speaking to the Leitrim Observer, Cllr Gilmartin said that he was particularly worried that the increasingly high level of requirements stipulated by HIQA would make it extremely difficult for the hospital to continue to provide the excellent levels of care and services it currently provides.
The Fianna Fail councillor said that the impact of the Public Service Employment Moratorium was also an area of concern with a number of staff retiring recently from St Patrick’s. Although the HSE has said that staffing levels at the Hospital continues to “remain within the accepted level of staffing requirement”, Cllr Gilmartin said it was counterproductive to allow a moratorium to be put in place for vital front-line services such as nurse numbers.
The HSE stressed the hospital had to meet standards set by HIQA inspectors and said they would “continue to work in a positive way with the inspectors in maintaining our registration and will continue to make changes to the Hospital within our allocated resources.”
Over the last few years this has included reducing bed numbers to comply with the environmental standards and ensuring the privacy and dignity of patients; replacement of the main roof at the hospital, fire safety upgrades and internal painting of the corridors and the Riverhead unit.
Most recently an external sensory garden, funded by the Leitrim Development Company and the Patients Comfort Fund has been commission. This is nearing completion and plans are underway to officially open it.