Dáil debates

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Adjournment Debate

Care of the Elderly

10:00 pm

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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This is the first chance I have had publicly to congratulate Deputy Kathleen Lynch on her appointment as Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children and, similarly, to congratulate Deputy Dinny McGinley on his appointment as Aire Stáit comh maith.

In the past decade there has been a major investment in the provision of new facilities for the elderly in County Cavan. That investment resulted in the provision of new nursing units for the elderly in Ballyconnell and Virginia with bed capacity, respectively, of 30 and 50. Alongside those units new primary care centres were developed as well. The third HSE nursing unit in County Cavan is St. Joseph's at Lisdaran on the campus of Cavan General Hospital.

I know many of the staff working in all the units and, similarly, over the years I have known many patients availing of the services in those units. Likewise, I know and have known many families who very much appreciate the excellent and professional care and attention their loved ones received in those units. I strongly commend and appreciate the work of all HSE staff involved in providing services for older people in Cavan-Monaghan.

There is widespread concern in County Cavan about the future use of the Lisdaran unit. There are currently 44 patients in the unit and six of the beds are used for respite care. With State investment it has been possible through upgrading of facilities to provide additional patient comforts and enhance the quality of patient care. The Lisdaran unit plays a critical role in the care of the elderly in my county. It is necessary to make maximum use of the unit. There can be no reduction in the level of service provided in the nursing unit. I seek an assurance from the Minister that there will be no reduction in the level of services or bed capacity of the Lisdaran unit. Making the maximum use of the nursing unit will contribute to the HSE's own goal of optimising the provision of quality care.

The families who have loved ones being cared for to a very high standard in the Lisdaran unit seek an assurance on its future and the level of services to be provided there. Similarly, all the staff deserve to know the exact position.

I commend all involved on delivering a highly professional and excellent standard of care to patients in the nursing units to which I referred. I reiterate the importance of the unit for so many patients and their families in County Cavan.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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I thank the Deputy for raising the issue of Lisdarn Centre for the Older Person, County Cavan. Government policy is to enable older people to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Where this is not feasible, the health service supports access to quality long-term residential care. We continue to develop and improve health services in all regions of the country to meet this objective and to ensure quality and patient safety. The Health Service Executive has operational responsibility for the delivery of health and social services, including those at facilities such as Lisdarn Centre for the Older Person. The centre is located on the grounds of Cavan General Hospital. There are 44 occupied beds in Lisdarn - 38 long-term care beds and six respite beds. In addition, there are ten assessment beds, which are not occupied for a number of reasons, including a reduction in people requiring this type of assessment and the current suspension of discharges from Cavan General Hospital due to an outbreak of Norovirus. These beds are utilised in the event of emergency respite being requested from the community. I understand there have been local concerns recently in regard to the future of the Lisdarn unit. However, the HSE does not foresee closure to Lisdarn or any other residential care facility for older people in Cavan-Monaghan.

Since the introduction of the nursing home support scheme in October 2009, older people are now free to choose the nursing home, public or private, in which they wish to live. The level of occupancy of long-stay beds at Lisdarn is being monitored to establish the ongoing demand for these services. The HSE in Cavan-Monaghan is examining bed utilisation in long-stay residential care facilities. One of the options being considered is a reconfiguration of services, including the balance between long-term care beds and a more responsive short-term service, including respite and convalescent care, to meet the demand from the community. The HSE is committed to optimising the provision of quality care and maximising efficiencies.

The examination in Cavan-Monaghan is expected to be concluded by 21 April this year and is led by the director of nursing and heads of services. The HSE stresses that any future changes to the services at the Lisdarn centre will be communicated, in the first instance, to the residents, their families and the staff. In addition, the HSE will keep members of the public and public representatives informed of developments.

The HSE has indicated there are no plans or proposals to close any beds in Lisdarn this year. It should be noted, however, that with the introduction of the recruitment moratorium in the public service, nurses or care staff who leave, retire or are absent on maternity or sick leave are not replaced. The HSE must maintain appropriate staffing levels to meet the needs of residents. Should staffing levels at Lisdarn drop below these levels, beds may need to close to ensure a safe level of care for the residents.

The Department of Health and Children is reviewing the provision of public long-stay care in the light of the need to meet national standards and regulations, local demographic pressures and public and private provision. The review will inform the development of an overall strategy on how the HSE should continue to provide this service in future in view of current budgetary and other pressures. It is expected that the review will be completed in the middle of the year.

Following his appointment as Minister for Health and Children, my colleague, Deputy Reilly, requested that the HSE suspend any current plans to close or withdraw residential care beds until he has had an opportunity to review the position. He has requested a full report from the HSE on this matter and will examine this issue carefully upon receipt of this information. However, providing quality and safe care for long-stay residents will have to remain at the heart of these considerations. I thank the Deputy for raising this issue.