Seanad debates

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Commencement Matters

Nursing Home Accommodation Provision

10:30 am

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Fine Gael)
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I am glad to have the opportunity to raise this important issue again and I thank the Minister of State for giving of his time to be present. One of his predecessors, Ms Kathleen Lynch, announced one of the most comprehensive programmes of investment in public nursing home facilities in the history of the State. As part of this €400 million investment programme by the Government, 33 existing nursing home facilities across the country will be replaced while 57 others will be refurbished or extended. Before this breakthrough announcement, many communities feared that some nursing homes would be closed because of a failure to meet the required HIQA standards. This naturally caused a great deal of concern and disquiet among communities throughout the country. However, with this significant funding programme, that will not be the case and, as a result of this investment, the future of these public nursing homes will be secured.

It also provides much reassurance for those living in these homes and their families. The excellence of the care received must be acknowledged but, unfortunately, for many years, the physical environment of these nursing homes required substantial improvement. The greatest beneficiary of this funding in my region last year was St. Patrick's Hospital in Carrick-on-Shannon, which received €60 million for a new 90-bed community hospital and the Sacred Heart Hospital in Roscommon town, which received €9 million for a new 50-bed unit.

Under this programme, it is proposed to deliver a new build community nursing home in Carrick-on-Shannon, which will replace existing beds where the physical environment requires significant improvement. The Sacred Heart Hospital project will comprise an extensive refurbishment of the building to provide residents with accommodation in en suite, single and two-bed rooms, along with suitable communal space and sanitary facilities. This good news announcement followed a long campaign by local stakeholders in both counties and this funding will ensure the facilities will be compliant with the environment aspects of HIQA standards by 2021.

I understand a great deal of preparatory work has been carried out by the HSE in deciding the most appropriate scheduling of projects for the period until 2021. However, I seek specific details regarding the Carrick-on-Shannon and Roscommon town developments. What preparatory work has been undertaken in respect of those two vital projects since the funding announcement early last year? I hope the Minister of State can provide some of that detail.

Photo of Jim DalyJim Daly (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Senator. A vital element of these projects is to keep attention focused on them. It is the duty of public representatives to ensure that progress is maintained on such important projects and that the wider public continues to be informed that they have not been forgotten about and they are very much active and on the table.Although it is the Government’s policy to facilitate older people to remain in their homes for as long as possible, there will always be a cohort of people who need long-term care. Quality residential care must continue to be available for those who need it. Residential care is provided through a mix of public, voluntary and private provision. It is worth highlighting that the net budget for long-term residential care in 2017 is €940 million and the nursing homes support scheme will support about 23,300 clients by the end of the year.

The Health Service Executive, HSE, is responsible for the delivery of health and personal social services, including those at facilities such as the Sacred Heart Hospital, Roscommon, and St. Patrick's Hospital, Carrick-on-Shannon. Public residential care units are an essential part of our health care infrastructure. They provide about 5,000 long-stay beds, amounting to approximately 20% of the total stock of nursing home beds nationally. There are also about 2,000 short-stay community public beds.

The standard of care delivered to residents in these units is generally very high. We recognise, however, that many of our public units are housed in buildings that are less than ideal in the modern context. Without them though, many older people would not have access to the care they need. It is, therefore, essential they are put on a sustainable footing and that the fabric of the buildings from which they operate is modernised and improved. This is the aim of the five-year capital programme for community nursing units announced last year.

The Senator will appreciate all health care infrastructure developments, including these two, require a lead-in time to complete the various stages. These stages include appraisal, project brief, design feasibility, a review of costing estimates, and finalisation of financing. Under this programme, it is proposed to deliver by 2021 new community nursing units at the Sacred Heart nursing home, Roscommon, and by means of public private partnership at St. Patrick's Hospital, Carrick-on-Shannon. These projects will replace existing beds where the physical environment requires significant improvement. Both projects are currently at appraisal stage and are proceeding according to capital planning guidelines.

Based on this early stage of the development, the projected timelines for the Sacred Heart Hospital, Roscommon, are that the project will be submitted to the HSE’s national capital and steering group for consideration and approval by the third quarter in 2018. The design, planning and tendering could be completed by the third quarter in 2019 and construction is projected to begin in 2020. The new community nursing unit is expected to be completed and occupied by the end of 2021.

The new project for St. Patrick’s Hospital, Carrick-on-Shannon, is being delivered by means of a public private partnership mechanism, which is at an early stage of the development. It is not possible at this point to give a detailed timeline for the delivery of each stage of the project. It is, however, expected that the facility will be operational by the fourth quarter in 2021.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State for his response. I am delighted our Government is fully committed to upgrading nursing homes across the country, including Sacred Heart Hospital, Roscommon, and St. Patrick's Hospital, Carrick-on-Shannon. I remember during the last Government, we went through many hoops to get this investment on the table. It certainly reassures residents and their families in these two counties.

When building the endoscopy unit at Roscommon hospital, it took four years from design, planning and tendering. Only that I saw it at first hand myself from sitting in on meetings nearly every week from the start of the project, I would not have realised how much of an undertaking it was for the HSE, staff and management team. I pay tribute to the management team and all staff at the hospital. Now there is a design team in Roscommon hospital working on a rehabilitation service for the west.

I again thank the Minister of State for his reassurance for residents and their families.

Photo of Jim DalyJim Daly (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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I am glad the Senator is happy with this response.

I always welcome the opportunity to update him and his constituents on projects like this and the focus they keep on them. I also commend him on his work in the wider Roscommon area. The endoscopy unit is a great credit to people like the Senator who saw the future in the hospital at all times. He stayed the course to ensure that development, one of which many people can be proud, including the Senator’s constituents.