Seanad debates

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Hospice Services

2:30 pm

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Carrigy for raising this important issue and for outlining the position in such a comprehensive manner. Palliative care can be highly emotive for people because it is end-of-life care. We all accept that.

The Government is strongly committed to providing high-quality, evidence-based palliative care in Ireland. The Department of Health, in line with the national palliative care policy introduced in 2001, is committed to ensuring that the hospice sector is sustainable and that specialist palliative care services are provided in every region of the country.

As stated by Senator Carrigy, St. Joseph's Care Centre, Longford, provides 24-hour nursing care for up to 68 residents. It is an invaluable service that is imbedded within the community. These beds can be used to provide care to a range of needs, including dementia care and cognitive impairment, acquired brain injury, palliative and palliative respite care. A newly refurbished lodge at St. Joseph's Care Centre includes one bedroom allocated for palliative care use, as stated by the Senator. The nub of the issue is the occupancy rate for this palliative care bed, which was 54% for 2020. I understand that in 2020 the numbers relating to palliative care were down everywhere. We were in the middle of Covid and there were situations whereby a person might be admitted but could not have a visitor for two weeks, until the 14 days passed and that was following by a restriction under which no visitation was allowed. As I said, all over the country numbers decreased as people preferred to receive palliative services at home because they were surrounded by their families.

The occupancy rate at St. Joseph's has risen to 64% to date in 2021. The figures I have show that the demand to date has been 64%. The HSE in the region also has a consultant-led specialist palliative care team that supports individuals in their homes. They engage with community nursing staff, GPs, out of-hours services and the Midland Regional Hospital to support patients and families.Current plans do not include an increase in the number of beds available for palliative services and any decision to redesignate one or more beds in St. Joseph's, Longford, will be made by the HSE based on local need. This Government will continue to work with the HSE and hospice organisations to ensure people with life-limiting conditions receive the level of palliative care they require.

I know the Senator will be disappointed with the response. As he said, it is one bed for 40,000 people. The Minister would have looked at the 54% capacity in 2020, which was an unusual year, and the 64% capacity in 2021 to date. Those figures would determine that one bed seems to be sufficient.


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