Kerry Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly has said he is deeply worried about the impact on patients of significant cuts to the health services in Kerry this year. Reacting to details of the HSE South service plan for 2012, Senator Daly has described plans to downgrade St Columbanus, Killarney and Listowel Community Hospital as a costly mistake.
Senator Daly said: “St Columbanus home in Killarney is an excellent facility that plays a crucial role in our local health services. Shutting down 11 beds at this facility this year will have a ripple effect right across healthcare provision in this region. In addition to this, the Minister for Health James Reilly has approved plans to close 17 beds at Listowel Community Hospital and close a ward at Kerry General. This is an extremely short-sighted move that will end up costing our health services more in the long-run.
“Reducing capacity at St Columbanus and other community hospitals and nursing home units will push elderly patients into the acute hospital system, which is already under severe pressure. The Health Minister James Reilly has approved plans to slash the HSE’s budget in the South by €208 million this year. This includes a cut of €9 million, or 4.5%, in the services for older people and a 4.5 % cut in home help hours. Meanwhile, dozens of beds in acute hospitals are also being closes. So we will have a situation where even more patients are in need of beds in the acute hospital system because community hospitals are being downgraded and home help services are being cut.
“It isn’t difficult to see that patients, and particularly older people, will be the losers in this. People are genuinely worried that this is the thin end of the wedge for St Columbanus and Listowel Community Hospital. There is a real fear that the downgrading we will see over the next few months is the beginning of moves to wind down these facilities. Since Minister Reilly came into power, he has pursued an agenda of closing community hospital beds around the country and earmarking some facilities for outright closure. This plan will see up to 898 community hospital beds nationwide closing this year.
“I am appealing to Minister Reilly to see the bigger picture here. The combination of downgrading community hospitals while closing beds at acute hospitals will cause chaos in our local health services,” said Senator Daly.