Around 400 people packed into the Bayview Hotel on Monday night to highlight concerns over the possible downgrading of Kilkybegs Community Hospital.
Dr Michael Cooke of Glenties said the problem was not due to structural deficiencies but due to the recruitment embargo. “We don’t have 41 beds, we have 32 at the moment, because of staff shortages and patients are sent to Letterkenny, which itself is in crisis because of staff shortages.”
He noted that Letterkenny General Hospital was closed for admissions on Monday and patients would have to travel to Sligo.
Pearse Doherty TD, Sinn Féin, said “big changes will take place in Donegal’s community hospitals” over the next ten years because “there will be a shortage of hundreds of long stay beds in Donegal” and stricter NIQA requirements.
He said the assessment of future needs for long stay beds was around 5% nationally but less than 3% in Donegal because of the high level of care in the community.
He suggested a permanent liaison committee be set up to meet regularly with the HSE.
A statement from the HSE was read out, in which the HSE stated that there are no plans to downgrade the hospital. The HSE did confirm plans to convert 12 beds at the hospital to long stay beds.
Niamh Kennedy of Killybegs Community Council, which organised the meeting, asked if people wanted to set up a liaison group and this was proposed and seconded.
Pearse Doherty said the committee should “fight the right fight” by identifying a site and also lobbying for a 50-60 bed long stay hospital or nursing home in Killybegs. “Fight to hold what you have and build from there,” he urged, prompting a round of applause.