BY JACKIE KEOGH
The fear of closure of State-run nursing home facilities in Bandon, Bantry, Castletownbere and Clonakilty is causing a tremendous amount of uncertainty and worry in the community, says Cllr Margaret Murphy O’Mahony.
The Fianna Fail election candidate has accused Health Minister Leo Varadkar and the government of failing older people by refusing to put in place a credible plan to ensure State-run nursing homes adhere to Hiqa accommodation standards.
Failure to meet these standards is putting the community care facilities provided at Bandon, Clonakility and Castletownbere Community Hospitals, as well as St Joseph’s Ward in Bantry, at risk of closure.
‘A huge injection of cash is needed to bring these facilities in line with the HIQA accommodation standards, but the Minister doesn’t seem to realise the importance of these hospitals, and the fact that people need to be able to visit their relatives in their own community,’ said Cllr Murphy O’Mahony.
She claimed: ‘Minister Varadkar has failed to plan for the changing demographics in Ireland, whereby more and more older people will need access to adequate nursing home care and the HSE is unable to provide necessary bed capacity as it stands.’
By refusing to prioritise the upgrading of State-run nursing homes, Cllr Murphy O’Mahony said: ‘These nursing homes and community hospitals are now in a situation where they are facing a full-blown crisis.’
The councillor accused the minister of ‘continued inaction’ considering that Hiqa had, in 2013, made it clear that the HSE needed to put in place a detailed plan to improve facilities so that State-run nursing homes adhere to new safety regulations.
‘The upgrading of nursing homes has not been given priority status by Minister Varadkar, despite the prospect of mass bed closures being on the cards,’ she said.
Cllr Murphy O’Mahony said she was particularly concerned about the future of Bandon, Clonakility and Castletownbere Community Hospitals, alongside St Joseph’s Ward in Bantry.
‘These nursing homes provide an invaluable care service and losing them would cause serious damage to our communities. They urgently need additional funding to ensure they adhere to the accommodation requirements set out by Hiqa,’ she said.
Calling on the government to make this issue a priority, Cllr Murphy O’Mahony said: ‘There is no evidence of any engagement between the Department of Health and the HSE on this matter to date.
‘Minister Varadkar needs to set out just how exactly he intends to bring State-run nursing homes up to standard. Any further delays will result in elderly people not having access to the care that they need, and will ultimately lead to mayhem in our health services in Cork,’ she added.