Dáil debates

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí (Atógáil) - Leaders' Questions (Resumed)


12:30 pm

Photo of Michael LowryMichael Lowry (Tipperary, Independent)
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Once again, I wish to raise the issue of the Dean Maxwell Community Nursing Unit in Roscrea. I have raised this issue on numerous occasions with Ministers in the Department of Health and with the Taoiseach, both publicly and privately. I will not give up on the fight to maintain long-stay care for the elderly people of Roscrea. The people of Roscrea deserve the security and comfort of knowing that their own and their family members’ lives can be lived out in their own town. This has been the case for generations.

As I speak, a group of elderly people are worried and anxious about what the future holds for them. Older men and women are being reduced to tears of despair at the thought that the place they call home will be snatched away from them. They are troubled and unsettled at the idea of being moved to a different town, to a place that is some 20 miles away from family and friends and will end lifelong connection with their home town.

Loyal and committed staff have been kept in the dark. The HR department has convened a meeting of staff for next Wednesday, presumably to advise them on their options of redeployment. The voices of these people have remained unheard since all of this began. They have no desire to move to a unit in Nenagh. The voices of those who have spoken out for Dean Maxwell and petitioned their case feel ignored and abandoned. They are now ready to take to the streets and protest in solidarity with the patients and staff of Dean Maxwell.

The Government and the HSE will see true community spirit and the fierce loyalty Roscrea is renowned for. The people are united in defiance of this HSE plan. We have been through all the glib explanations and excuses. The truth is that the 25 long-stay beds were covertly transferred from Roscrea to justify the building of a new 50-bed nursing home unit in Nenagh. The elderly patients from Roscrea were just used to make up the numbers. The human cost was irrelevant.

The HSE has never engaged in a transparent fashion. Queries were met with evasive responses. The HSE stonewalled approaches for information and refused point-blank to admit the true position. The HSE has been implementing a policy of closure by stealth. It had neither the courage nor the honesty to admit it.

We have one last opportunity to redeem the future of Dean Maxwell. It can only be saved through political intervention and political direction. I am requesting the Taoiseach make a personal intervention to remedy this injustice. I suggest that the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, and the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, would meet with the representatives of the local action group. At that meeting, the local committee will outline the footprint of an alternative viable proposal to protect and enhance services and supports for the elderly population of Roscrea.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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First, I want to thank the Deputy for raising this issue. He has been consistently raising this issue for quite some time along with Deputy Cahill, who has been very persistent on it. We are aware of the depth of feeling among the people in Roscrea associated with the Dean Maxwell Community Nursing Unit. The Deputy gave the background to the decision making that led to where we are. It serves the community very well. Its location is right in the centre of the town, which facilitates all who wish to visit those who live in the facility. Access is important to relatives.

It is registered for 27 beds, of which 20 are long-term residential care beds. It also provides seven palliative, respite or short-term care beds. They are counting 19 long-term residents who live in Dean Maxwell and there is currently one respite bed in use now. As the Deputy knows, HIQA has had concerns about the current design of the building. It is very old and work is ongoing to redress these issues.

To be fair to the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, she has worked with the Deputy and local representatives to make sure that nothing happens in the immediate sense and the HIQA registration for beds in Dean Maxwell was renewed in 2020 will remain valid until 2023. The HSE intends to continue to admit residents to Dean Maxwell when there is bed availability. The Minister of State, Deputy Butler, is fully committed to exploring all available options. She has been meeting with public representatives, as the Deputy knows, and engaged on 21 April last when she invited public stakeholders to accompany her on a visit to CareBright at Bruff, County Limerick just to see the potential. She has put much work into this, to be fair.

I would be happy to meet the local action group with the Ministers in question to hear its presentation. As I said, Deputies Lowry and Cahill have asked for this and that is something I will be prepared to do. The Minister of State, Deputy Butler, has committed to exploring and proposed options in conjunction with the HSE. She had a meeting with public representatives in Tipperary and community stakeholders last April. As the Deputy knows, there have been discussions on the construction of dementia-specific independent living centre on a greenfield site, coupled with the development of new facilities on the current Dean Maxwell site. Both, by the way, would represent very significant capital allocations. It will have to meet, obviously, the needs of the local community.

In short, I would be prepared to meet them and I accept that there is a depth of anger and concern. We have to work communities to effect change. We also have to ensure compliance with HIQA standards, because the HSE has to adhere to, abide and comply with the standards that are laid down by it.

Photo of Michael LowryMichael Lowry (Tipperary, Independent)
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I welcome and thank the Taoiseach for acceding to my request for that meeting. I hope we can have that meeting shortly, because time is of the essence. We certainly would like to have the meeting before he goes back to his native Cork for the summer break. The committee will welcome that opportunity.

I want to get to the kernel of the issue. I accept that the Minister of State has been working hard and has had several discussions with us. What has been on offer from the Minister in the latest proposal is very welcome but it stops short of what we want. The central element of any new plan and the nub of the issue is that we want to retain a complement of long-stay community nursing home beds in Roscrea. If that was added to the additional plan, we could move forward. I appreciate the response of the Taoiseach and his willingness to intercede to see if we can find a resolution to the problem and move forward.

12:40 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Whatever summer break I get will be a relatively short one. I am not going anywhere in a hurry due to pressing demands on our time. We can make arrangements to set up that meeting. The Minister of State has put a lot of work and thought into this. We will engage with the HSE as well to get a workable solution that can meet the needs of the community.