The HSE’s “health and safety” grounds for closing the 19-bed St. Bridget’s Ward in St Patrick’s Hospital by July has been described as a lame excuse. The real reason is cost saving, argues Labour Spokesman for Older People, Senator Phil Prendergast from Clonmel.
“There has never been a problem with regard to health and safety at the 115-bed hospital”, the Senator points out.
And he complains: “It was proposed in the past to decant the St Bridget’s beds to a new dedicated unit. However, as we have come to expect of both the HSE and the Department of Health, senior management have once again failed to put in place essential structures and services, ultimately railroading ahead with another half-baked plan to reduce bed numbers
“Make no mistake, this is nothing more than another budgetary cut by the HSE. Had their main concern been the health and safety of the patients, they would have put in place alternative beds long ago. Of course there will be an associated reduction in staff as a result of the bed closures, so the HSE gains financially on every level while patients suffer”.
Waterford FG Senator Paudie Coffey demanded transparency from the HSE on the issue, at the same time accusing the government of targeting vulnerable people for its own financial mistakes.
“I am calling on the HSE to provide a clear explanation as to how they arrived at the decision that St Bridget’s ward must be closed”, he said. “If there are genuine health and safety fears they should be clearly outlined and perhaps they could be addressed. The admission from a HSE spokesperson that the closure is taking place against a backdrop of cutbacks adds to local concerns that the motives behind the action are not that simple.
“Nobody would want to see health and safety concerns ignored but the reality is people in Waterford know the great reputation of the hospital and the families of those in St Bridget’s ward appreciate the excellent care they receive.
“The HSE says that patients will be transferred from St Bridget’s ward to other beds as they become available, but the upshot of this move will be a reduction in badly needed beds in the city.
Between January 2007 and May 2008 Waterford Regional Hospital lost almost 3,500 bed days due to delayed discharges, which shows the need for step-down beds to accommodate patients who no longer need acute care but require a longer stay bed. Once again vulnerable people are being hit for the financial mistakes of the Government. Fine Gael is clearly saying that core services like this have to be ring-fenced and protected while savings and cutbacks should start at the top and be targeted at expensive bureaucracy and waste.”
Former Mayor of Waterford Cllr Davy Daniels has also joined in condemnation of the shock proposal. “St Patrick’s Hospital and its staff have represented a beacon of light for elderly patients through the years and it is nothing short of a scandal if its facilities are to be reduced, especially at a time when demand for beds there was never so intense”, he commented.
“People who worked hard and honest all their lives will be deprived of comfort and security in old age, due to bad government and greed of the rich”, he thundered.
City Councillors John Halligan, Hilary Quinlan and Seamus Ryan have also spoken out against the ward closure, describing it as unnecessary and a slap in the teeth for elderly, vulnerable patients who have always got the best of care there.