Waterford Fine Gael Deputy John Deasy told members of the County Council last week that St Brigid’s Ward of St Patrick’s Hospital in Waterford will be “long closed” before any replacement beds are provided by the Health Service Executive.

The HSE gave a commitment that a new 50 bed nursing unit would be provided in St Patrick’s Hospital grounds and the planning process would commence towards the end of 2009 at the earliest, he said in a letter to the Council.

Local Health Manager, Dermot Halpin, told the Council that the HSE had a responsibility to ensure the new and emerging standards of quality and safety were applied to the care of elderly patients. Standards for infection prevention and control had to be met as well as provision for care, environmental standards and health and safety and fire safety standards.

It was not considered viable to refurbish the existing ward and as vacancies arose on the ground floor, patients would be re-located in consultation with the patients and their families. Plans were being advanced under a national process for “Design and Build” Community Nursing Units. Waterford was identified by the HSE as the top priority location for the next phase of that programme.#

Move to increase beds

Mr Halpin said in acknowledgement of the reduction of 19 beds over time, action had been taken to ensue that there would not be a reduction in the number of beds to support older people in the area. The HSE was moving to increase the number of beds available and arrangements had already been made to provide additional beds in private nursing homes in the area.

The HSE had no plans to close St Patrick’s now or in the future, a new 50 bed Community Nursing Unit was to be developed to replace St Brigid’s Ward and services on the ground floor would be maintained, he said.

The excellent quality of care provided by the staff of St Patrick’s Hospital and the significant and valued contribution of the Friends of St Patrick’s Hospital Committee were acknowledged and the HSE looked forward to working closely with them in the future so that excellence in care could be maintained by excellent facilities for both patients and staff.