Cutbacks in the health service in County Donegal were outlined in the Dáil by Independent Deputy Thomas Pringle.
Speaking during a debate on a Fianna Fáil Private Member’s motion on the health services, he said he wished to give two examples of the impacts of the cuts in funding to the HSE on the community in County Donegal.
“Killybegs community hospital has 48 beds dedicated to respite care and long-stay care for elderly patients,” he said. “However, today eight of those beds are closed because of the embargo the Government has applied in the health service.
“Those eight beds are closed because management will not replace staff, who have retired or are on sick leave, which would allow the hospital to operate to its full capacity. This means that many elderly patients are scattered around County Donegal, many of them 40 or 50 miles away from their homes in nursing home care because they cannot access a bed in their own communities.”
That shows the impact the cuts in the health services have had in recent years, he said. “Those cuts are continuing because there is no sign of the embargo being lifted. If we want the health services to work for the benefit of the community, we need to ensure that beds in community hospitals are kept operational. Staff should be allocated on a temporary basis to ensure that happens. This ties into the problems Letterkenny General Hospital is having because patients cannot move out of the general hospital into community hospitals where many beds have been closed because of staffing shortages and the ongoing embargo. That indicates the crisis we have in community hospitals.”
In the past two weeks he said the community on Arranmore Island was faced with the loss of its public health nurse. This is an isolated community of 500 people - ten years ago more than 1,000 people lived on the island. As a result of the withdrawal of services and the difficulties in this recession, people have moved away and emigrated. “This community had a vital link in having a public health nurse available full-time on the island,” he said. “The HSE in its wisdom proposed to move this nurse from the island and replace her with a part-time nurse. Thankfully, the community mobilised and today that decision was reversed, which I welcome.”