Dáil debates

Thursday, 11 November 2010

3:00 pm

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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Question 5: To ask the Minister for Health and Children her plans or those of the Health Service Executive to alter services provided at a hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42374/10]

Photo of Áine BradyÁine Brady (Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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It is the policy of the Government to support older people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Where this is not feasible, we support access to quality long-term residential care where appropriate.

Quality of care and the safety of residents are the key factors driving developments in the provision of long-term care. All current residential facilities for older people have to comply with the Health Information and Quality Authority's national quality standards for residential care settings for older people in Ireland and the Health Act, 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated facilities) Regulations 2009. The provision of long-term care also has to be informed by local demographic needs.

There are 11 Health Service Executive community hospitals or nursing units operating in Donegal with a maximum 489 beds. Within the Lifford area, there are HSE facilities in Stranorlar, Ramelton and Buncrana and private nursing homes in Letterkenny and Convoy.

Lifford Community Hospital, established in 1799, operates in nightingale style wards. There are no single rooms in the hospital. It has a total of 40 beds and it is currently operating as a 20-bed unit. It is now providing 12 continuing care beds, five respite beds with three beds for assessment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

The director of nursing is in contact with residents and their families regarding any concerns they have about the hospital. No decision has yet been made about what services can be provided safely and in line with national standards at this hospital. I have, however, asked the HSE to continue meaningful consultation with residents and their families and that all options for their future care will be explored by the HSE with them.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State response. I refer to this hospital at the request of Barry O'Neill, who is a councillor in the area, to ensure that it is not further downgraded. The Minister of State alluded to it being a 40-bed unit; I visited it in June when 30 beds were in operation and now there are 20 beds. There seems to be a fairly aggressive downgrading of the hospital. These hospitals are extremely important in community care, particularly in areas such as Donegal which has a very rural spread with very long distances and difficult roads to traverse from one place to another. Everyone in the House would agree that the best outcome for people if they have to go into a nursing home is that it be in their community where their friends and loved ones can visit them. Otherwise, what happens is that they wither on the vine. Will the Minister of State give a commitment that this facility will not be further downgraded or closed?

Photo of Áine BradyÁine Brady (Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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As I stated, no decision has been made on what will happen in the future, but I have written to the HSE and asked it to consult at all times with the families. Obviously, their safety is what is of utmost importance to me and to the HSE. We will consult with the families and the residents at all times.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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Will the Minister of State kindly reassure the House that the HSE will not continue with its previous history of using reports that identify deficits in care as an excuse to close facilities instead of addressing the issues raised by the reports?

Photo of Áine BradyÁine Brady (Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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It has until 2015 to address the issues but it must deal with them. These facilities are being inspected, often for the first time. Many of them are very old buildings. As I stated, I have asked, in the interests of patient safety, that consideration is given to patients remaining in the own communities and in the local area.