Speaking at a meeting of the Regional Health Forum South in Cork yesterday (Thursday), Mr Pat Healy, Assistant National Director for Primary, Community and Continuing Care in HSE South, said the HSE has no plans to close St Patrick’s Hospital in Waterford either now or in the future.

However, insisted Mr Healy, the country was moving into a new era on standards for residential care for older people and the HSE had to address current shortcomings in its existing facilities.

“St Bridget’s Ward in St. Patrick’s Hospital has been identified for several years as being unsuitable in the long term for continued use for residential care for older people. It has been listed on the Health Service Executive capital plan for replacement. It is a high priority project.

“The HSE has confirmed the development of a new 50-bed Community Nursing Unit for Waterford is a priority. This will replace the upper-floor St. Bridget’s ward in the existing building. Services on the ground floor of St. Patrick’s will be maintained, but over time, this part of the hospital too, will be modernised so that excellence in care can be matched by excellent facilities for both patients and staff alike”, said Mr Healy.

Mr Healy confirmed that the HSE had already taken action to ensure that there would not be a reduction in the number of beds to support older people in Waterford city.

The Local Health Manager for Waterford, Dermot Halpin, told the meeting: “We have a responsibility to our elderly patients to ensure that the new and emerging standards for quality and safety are applied to their care; that we meet standards for infection prevention and control, environmental standards and fire and health and safety standards. For these reasons it is not viable to continue to accommodate patients in this area of St. Patrick’s Hospital, nor is it viable to refurbish the ward to the required standards.

“Patients will not be moved out of St. Patrick’s Hospital. As vacancies arise on the ground floor, we will, in consultation with the patients themselves and their families, relocate patients from St. Bridget’s Ward, to wards downstairs, as they become available. The 19- bed ward will no longer accept admissions”, concluded Mr Halpin.