The delay in opening the new replacement building for St Vincent’s District Hospital in Dungarvan due a shortage of funding has been cited as another systems failure by the HSE.

The new 32-bed community hospital will eventually provide GP access beds, convalescent, respite and terminal care and short-term accommodation for dependent, young chronically-ill people.

It’s to be focused on the provision of non-acute services for the community and will complement the services of St Joseph’s, the acute general hospital within the same grounds.

There will be eight beds for GP acute admissions, the same number for respite care, three each for palliative care and young chronically-sick patients, and 10 beds for short-term convalescing care.

However, though the €12m building has been completed for more than two months its doors are still closed. That’s because beds, oxygen and other equipment have yet to be fitted.

Waterford Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey says: “The projections for elderly care provision in the country, not to mind in Waterford, are increasing and will pose an increasing demand on State resources in the coming years. St Bridget’s ward in St Patrick’s Hospital in Waterford City, which can accommodate 19 people, is due to close, with a new 50-bed unit is awaited.”

“It is great that the Dungarvan building has been completed but it would be a shame if it were left idle for any longer than is necessary. It is important that it is fitted out as soon as possible to enable patients to be admitted and cared for, as was expected when the investment was made in this hospital.”

However, Minister of State Sean Haughey said the HSE recently took charge of the building, but “in light of the current financial difficulties generally… it will be a matter for the HSE to progress the equipping phase as part of its agreed capital programme for 2009 and beyond.

“This,” he said, “would have to take account of priorities determined nationally by the executive, including decisions in respect of new community facilities coming on stream. Such initiatives must be in line with agreed capital envelopes and must identify any additional revenue or staffing implications arising from a particular project.”

Senator Coffey said he was “disappointed” with the lack of a commitment on when the unit will open. “This again displays the lack of joined-up thinking within the HSE. There is a lack of co-ordination within the executive in the context of budgets.

“The building section has already overseen the construction of the unit but it does not appear that funding will be provided in respect of its being fitted out. There is no logic to this and it highlights the difficulty with inflexible bureaucratic systems such as those employed by the HSE,” he asserted. “Delivery is what it all boils down to in government.”