The HSE could save up to €1m by closing St Brigid’s Ward in St Patrick’s Hospital, a local councillor has estimated.

Despite the 300 or so names on the hospital’s waiting list, the HSE has reiterated its intention to close the ward by July, with the loss of 19 long-stay beds.

City Councillor and Chairman of the HSE’s South Regional Forum Hilary Quinlan has completely rejected the argument put forward by the HSE that St Brigid’s Ward must be closed on health and safety grounds. The proposed closure, he said, is nothing more than a cost-cutting measure. “From the salaries of up to 8 full time nursing staff, along with care staff, cleaners and other auxiliary staff, as well as savings from heating, food, the HSE stands to save up to €1m from the ward’s closure”, he told The Munster Express.

Cllr Quinlan said he had been listening to the Health and Safety argument for several years now, adding that St Brigid’s had been kept open during this time, with any concerns dealt with. This included the provision of a lift at the hospital, the installation of a new fire alarm system and the rewiring of the ward and every precaution was taken, always with the support of the Friends of St Patrick’s. “If the HSE is seriously considering closure St Brigid’s on Health and Safety grounds, it raises concerns about similar hospitals in the south east that are pre 1800s, with wards on the second floor.”

Cllr Quinlan noted that, of the proposed 502 new long stay beds in the HSE South’s Service Plan for 2009, none would be coming to Waterford city and only 32 to Dungarvan. The vast majority of beds, he said, were going to Cork and Kerry. He called on the HSE to at least make a start on the construction of the new 50-bed unit proposed for the hospital before attempting to close St Brigid’s.

HSE management are to meet local councillors, TDs and Senators next Monday to further discuss the closure of St Brigid’s Ward. Amongst the suggestion being made by local representatives is the demolition of the former nurses’ home on the grounds of the hospital and construction in its place of a replacement unit.