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Calls for €11m investment after HIQA says Sacred Heart Hospital ‘not safe’

A report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has found that the Sacred Heart Hospital, Roscommon town, was not a ‘safe and suitable premises’ for the residents.

The authority released their inspection report on the facility last week, which was based on an announced inspection on March 2.

They raised serious concerns about the facilities available in the hospital. The historic building, formerly Roscommon Workhouse, was built in 1842 and HIQA believe it falls significantly short of modern-day standards.

The Health Service Executive facility, which is effectively a public nursing home, accommodates a maximum of 95 residents.

The hospital was found to be ‘majorly non-compliant’ as regards being a ‘safe and suitable premises’. Inspectors identified breaches of residents’ privacy and dignity while being accommodated in multi-occupancy bedrooms, where some residents were sharing bedrooms of between four and 11 beds.

The report added: “The inspectors found that many of the communal areas, such as bathrooms, toilets and sluice facilities, were inadequate and too small to meeting residents’ and staffing needs.”

They also said that, in three of the units, there were “inadequate showering and toileting facilities to adequately meet the needs of the residents”. In one ward, there was only two showers and one bathroom for 20 residents.

The report added: “There were an insufficient number of toilets for the number of residents accommodated.”

Concerns were also raised about the fact that many of the toilets between bedroom areas were not wheelchair accessible. This meant that “residents had to use commodes or be assisted long distances to wheelchair accessible toilets at the other end of the wards”. The inspectors said that some residents had to walk or be assisted up to 23 metres to the nearest toilet or bathroom.

The report said that residents’ privacy and dignity was “significantly impacted” by the open-ward design.

Residents, staff and visitors had to walk through their bedroom areas to access other residents’ bedroom areas.

It was also found that there was a lack of storage facilities at the hospital.

Staff shortages at Sacred Heart Hospital

Residents and families ‘very happy’

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) have found that there were staffing shortages at the Sacred Heart Hospital, Roscommon town.

The hospital is made up of four units – St Catherine’s, St Joseph’s, St Michael’s and Our Lady’s – but the health watchdog found that, in the evening and at night, there was only two staff rostered in each ward.

The inspectors found that when a resident was very ill and required a lot of supervision, this impacted on the availability of the staff for the other residents who were also very dependent and required the support of two staff.

Overall, the inspectors said that they found that there was “inadequate staff support available at night” and that this “requires review”.

HIQA also said that a number of residents had “unwitnessed falls” in the centre.

On a more positive note, inspectors said that the centre was well managed and most of the outcomes inspected were compliant.

HIQA also said that residents and family members told inspectors that they were very happy with the services provided in the centre.

Independent TDs fear facility will close

Independent TDs Denis Naughten and Michael Fitzmaurice have raised fears that the Sacred Heart Hospital in Roscommon town will close down.

Their comments come in light of the Health Information and Quality Authority’s (HIQA) highly critical inspection report, in which they deemed the facility not to be a ‘safe and suitable premises’.

They also said there were issues around staff shortages at the facility. Both TDs have expressed concerns that it will face closure, a fate that also befell the accident and emergency unit (A&E) at Roscommon Hospital.

Deputy Naughten said: “The hospital needs investment of about €11 million if it is to remain open under HIQA standards. I hope this investment will be forthcoming from the Minister for Health (Leo Varadkar) in the coming weeks.

“We’ve already lost our A&E and we don’t want to see this valuable service for older people of Co. Roscommon being lost, due to a lack of urgently required investment.”

Deputy Fitzmaurice voiced similar views. “Roscommon has seen enough: they closed our A&E and other services,” he said.

“We cannot afford to stand by and watch the Sacred Heart Hospital suffer a similar fate.” Meanwhile, both TDs have leapt to the defence of various aspects of the facility, in light of last week’s damning report.

Deputy Naughten said he would have “no hesitation whatsoever” in recommending the unit. “While there is no doubt the building urgently needs significant investment, the care provided in the hospital is second to none,” he said.

Similarly, Deputy Fitzmaurice said: “When one reads this report, it provides a glowing testament to the staff and management at the Sacred Heart Hospital.

“It confirms what the local community already knows – that the hospital is ‘well-managed’ – and it also acknowledges the residents and their families have said over and over again that they ‘happy with the services’.”

Fine Gael, Independents and ‘breakaway’ Fianna Failers had planned a power grab!

A threat to Cllr. Paddy Kilduff’s prospects of being elected first citizen of the county last month led to dramatic, behind-the-scenes talks aimed at forming a new Coalition on Roscommon County Council.

  And, in the event of a withdrawal of support for Cllr. Kilduff’s candidacy for the position of Cathaoirleach, an alternative power block involving Fine Gael, Independents and two ‘breakaway’ Fianna Fail councillors was being lined up.  

  The background to the audacious would-be power grab goes back to last summer. The slimmed-down Council now consists of just eighteen councillors, meaning any party or combination of parties with ten votes has a majority.

  After last summer’s local elections, a Coalition pact, intended to last for five years, was formed between Fianna Fail’s eight councillors and three Independents, namely Cllrs. Nigel Dineen, Kathleen Shanagher and Tony Ward.

  When it came to filling key posts, the Coalition members agreed that Cllr. John Cummins would be Mayor (Cathaoirleach) in year one of the Council’s five-year term – and that he would be succeeded by Cllr. Paddy Kilduff in year two.

  That understanding came under some threat in recent months as Cllr. Kilduff became embroiled in a row with his party colleague, Cllr. John Keogh. That matter is now the subject of an investigation by Fianna Fail HQ in Dublin. Cllr. Kilduff and Cllr. Ivan Connaughton (who is indirectly involved in the row) have both been summoned to a meeting with FF HQ in Dublin in early September.

  With the Keogh/Kilduff row raging, there was uncertainty prior to last June’s AGM of the Council as to whether or not Kilduff’s ‘coronation’ could be assured. 

  One definite crack in the existing FF/Independents alliance was self-evident with Cllr. Keogh making it clear that he would not be supporting the nomination of Cllr. Kilduff for the prestigious position of Cathaoirleach.

  Leading up to the AGM it also became clear that a campaign was being waged to persuade other Fianna Fail councillors to defer Cllr. Kilduff’s elevation to ‘first citizen’ status until 2018, and to instead put forward another Fianna Fail candidate for the position this year.

  An attempt was also made to win over Independent councillors Dineen, Shanagher and Ward to the idea of a withdrawal of support for Kilduff. They declined, instead insisting they would stick with what had been agreed last summer.

  However, with pressure on Fianna Fail councillors to look beyond Cllr. Kilduff for the Cathaoirleach role, plans for an alternative Coalition were hastily hatched.

  The plan was that a new power-sharing pact would be formed. It would consist of the three Fine Gael councillors, five Independents (two of whom are former Fine Gael representatives) and Fianna Fail councillors Paddy Kilduff and Ivan Connaughton.

  Cllrs. Kilduff and Connaughton were prepared to join the prospective new alliance. As they saw it, they wouldn’t be  breaking away from the eight-strong Fianna Fail group of councillors – instead, they were prepared to argue that the new power-sharing pact would only have been formed because Fianna Fail councillors had reneged on supporting Kilduff’s candidacy.

  According to sources, the audacious FG/Independents/Connaughton & Kilduff alliance was agreed in principle, and was ready to stage its ‘coup’. 

  Some of those lined up to be members of the new Coalition will – particularly now, after the event – dispute that this was at an advanced stage.

  There are even some councillors who, quite plausibly, have indicated to the Roscommon People that they had no knowledge of the talks; however their support was being counted upon by the senior councillors who hatched the plan.

  The three Independents councillors already committed to an alliance – Dineen, Shanagher and Ward – had been represented by Cllr. Ward in the discussions, something which isn’t unusual as Cllr. Ward is the accepted, if unofficial, leader of the block of Independents on the Council.

  Sources say that Fine Gael and the other Independents were also ‘onside.’

  News of the plans for an alternative Coalition were conveyed to Fianna Fail members, who were suitably rattled by the turn of events.

  After several days’ of intense comings and goings, it finally became clear that there would be no need for a power grab. All Fianna Fail councillors, bar Cllr. Keogh, ultimately supported Cllr. Kilduff’s nomination for Cathaoirleach. He was elected to the position on June 14 by 10 votes to 8.


New death threat to Feighan

Despite announcing his imminent departure from Dáil politics, Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan received a new death threat last weekend.

  Deputy Feighan says a two-page letter was hand-delivered to his constituency office on Bridge Street, Boyle, on Sunday or Monday.

  He revealed the news on Twitter on Monday morning, along with a portion of the hand-written letter in which the warning was made.

  It reads: “I know the time you leave the house and I see you coming home. You will get a bullet before long you gay bastered (sic). RIP.”

  Deputy Feighan said the remainder of the letter was about emergency services in Co. Roscommon.

  Deputy Feighan said that the staff in his constituency office were “very upset” by the letter, which was subsequently reported to the Gardaí.

  Gardaí in Boyle refused to comment on the matter.

  Deputy Feighan recently announced that he would not be seeking to retain his Dáil seat in the next General Election, but he said that he was disappointed that he continued to receive vitriol over his stance on Roscommon’s A&E.

  He said on Twitter: “Four years of threats and abuse as I leave politics.”  

€350,000 for roads in Roscommon town

Almost €350,000 will be spent on upgrading roads in Roscommon town.

  The state of the roads in the county town area has been a source of concern recently, with many in very poor condition.

  At Monday’s meeting of Roscommon Municipal District, it was decided to carry out improvement works on four stretches, following an announcement of additional funding from the Department of Environment.

  The most significant works will be undertaken in the Castle Street area, where €235,430 will be spent.

  More modest works will be carried out on the road that links the post office to the Civic Headquarters, currently under construction, and on a stretch behind Bank of Ireland. These two projects will cost a total of €86,820.

  Finally, €20,000 will be spent on the Athlone Road, near Foxe’s Bar.

  Cllr. Orla Leyden, of Fianna Fáil, said: “I very much welcome this news because many of the roads and pavements in town are in poor condition.”

  It was also announced that a long-standing problem in Ballyleague will be addressed. This involves an open drain, into which a truck fell. Roscommon County Council will commence works on this in the coming weeks.



HSE ‘spending millions on private ambulances’

The Saolta Hospital Group, which includes Roscommon Hospital, spent over €2 million on private ambulances last year, and is set to break the €3 million mark this year, the Health Service Executive have revealed.

  This information was disclosed following a parliamentary question from Independent TD Denis Naughten.

  In 2013, €44,168 was spent by Roscommon Hospital, €38,155 last year and €30,155 in the first five month of this year.

  This is despite the establishment of Saolta’s own hospital transport service for patients two years ago.

  The patient transport service uses Intermediate Care Vehicles (ICVs), manned by Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), to transport patients between hospitals, like those within Saolta Group.

  “The reason for establishing this service was to assist the Saolta Hospital Group in transporting patients between hospitals,” said Deputy Naughten.

  “But despite this the hospitals have forked out €2.2m in 2014 and have already spent in excess of €1.25m in the first five months of 2015.

  “This is on top of the money paid by health insurers for the transport of private patients between these hospitals.

  “The use of the ICVs was to ensure that patients who are already in hospital can be transferred between hospitals without tying up emergency ambulances and paramedics, who would then available to respond to 999/112 calls.

  “What is even more frustrating is the fact the money used over the last two and a half years on private ambulances would have paid for an additional 28 ICVs, which would have a dramatic impact on the delivery of the service.” 

Dear Old Elphin Festival – this weekend

The ‘Dear Old Elphin’ Festival 2015 will take place this Bank Holiday weekend and all events are free for patrons in what is the third instalment of this very popular festival.

This year the festival will start on Friday 31st July with a Crossroads Dance near the Cathedral Green.

Patrons will be transported back to the days of the 1940s when Elphin and surrounding area was a mecca for Dance Halls, Carnivals and crossroads dancing.

As well as ceili dancing there will have waltzing and foxtrots. On Saturday 1st August the Main Street will be closed to traffic.

Stalls selling the best of local produce will be set up and we will be showcasing the traditional crafts of bygone days such as shoemaking, spinning, weaving, wood cutting, threshing, thatching, haymaking, tinsmith and blacksmith (if the weather is poor, many of these demonstrations will take place indoors).

The late Pat Kenny is fondly remembered by everyone who knew him and this year the Pat Kenny Poetry Competition will take place at the ‘Dear Old Elphin’ Festival on Sunday 2nd August in The Tower Bar, Elphin.

Other events over the weekend will include a Junior ‘Junk Kouture’ fashion parade for budding young designers and an art competition.

The theme for the adult art competition 2015 will be ‘a painting/drawing of a gathering’.

The festival will finish with an exciting car treasure hunt on Sunday with all proceeds from entries going to the prizes.

Check out our Facebook page on www.facebook.com/dearoldelphin2015/ and mark your diaries for 31st July to 3rd August and join us in Elphin, where there will be a warm welcome for all.

Post code ‘shambles’ to be raised with Minister White

Councillors in south Roscommon have unanimously slammed the new post code system ‘Eircode’, which sees many area listed as being in counties Westmeath or Galway, instead of Roscommon.

  The recently launched scheme saw addresses in Bealnamullia, Monksland, Creagh and Brideswell ‘relocated’ to Athlone, Co. Westmeath, and Dysart, Taughmaconnell and Ballyforan ‘moved’ in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway.

  Speaking at Monday’s meeting of Athlone Municipal District, Cllr. Laurence Fallon, an Independent, said: “Eircode is a complete shambles. There is outrage about it. It is dismantling Roscommon bit by bit.”

  He called for Eircode to be changed. “It is not a working situation,” he added.

  Fianna Fáil councillors John Keogh and Paddy Kilduff also slammed the system. The latter said that there was an “agenda to take over Monksland in Westmeath”.

  Cllr. Tony Ward, an Independent, urged householders to disregard instructions from Eircode and continue using their ‘old postal address’.

  Fine Gael councillor, John Naughten, said that the system was “not adequate” and should be “reviewed”.

  At his request, a letter is to be written to Communications Minister Alex White, expressing opposition to the Eircode situation in south Roscommon.

  It was also agreed to seek a meeting with a representative from An Post or Eircode to outline the councillors’ views. 


Family Fun Festival in Tulsk on Sunday

A massive Family Fun Festival will take place in Tulsk on Sunday 2nd of August, where those who attend can expect lots of activities and a fun-filled day!

  Taking place in O’Connor Park in Tulsk, the actions kicks off at 1 pm. There is free entertainment all day including a bouncy castle, face-painting, a magic show, live music, balloon modelling, Irish dancing, a musical wizard and a fire dancer!

  Special guests from the world of Disneyland will also be making an appearance!

  There will be food and refreshments available, with a hot dog stand, ice cream station, a BBQ and market stalls.

  There will be music throughout the day with ‘The Cover Ups’ performing at 5 pm. There will be a Monster BBQ between 5 pm and 8 pm. Later on the night in O’Connor’s Bar music will be provided by Padraic Cryan.

  One event which is sure to attract a lot of attention is the Fun Dog Show at 4 pm. There are eight categories involved including cutest puppie under one year, best handled dog by child, dog judge would most like to take home, best dressed, most obedient, best groomed, most friendly and dog with waggiest tail!

  There is also going to be an extensive market and organisers are urging anyone who would like to book a stall to contact Joely on 086-8763708.

  Entry fee on the day is €5 with free admission for under-5s. Organisers are also running a free competition on Facebook on ‘The Friary’ page granting free entrance to a family for the lucky winner.

Paschal Fitzmaurice confirms General Election ambitions

Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice has confirmed that he will contest Fianna Fáil’s Selection Convention for the next General Election, prompting an expected contest with Dr Keith Swanick, his fellow Castlerea native.

Cllr. Eugene Murphy is also a declared candidate for the Fianna Fail nomination to run in the upcoming General Election.

Just a week after Dr Swanick, a long-time party activist, revealed that he was strongly considering contesting the Fianna Fail Convention, Cllr. Fitzmaurice has officially thrown his hat into the ring.

“I am going forward for the convention,” he exclusively told the Roscommon People this week. Cllr. Fitzmaurice said that he had been approached by several people over the past six months, urging him to run.

Deputy Frank Feighan’s announcement that he would not be contesting the election has contribution to his decision.

“Originally, I held back because I wanted some clarity as to how many seats there would be in Co. Roscommon,” Cllr. Fitzmaurice said. “It is pretty clear now that there will be three seats. There wouldn’t be a situation where Frank Feighan would have got Ceann Comhairle, and there would only be only two seats.”

A Ceann Comhairle is automatically re-elected as to the Dail.

Cllr. Fitzmaurice topped the poll in the Roscommon Municipal District in last year’s local elections, with 1,576 first-preference votes, to retain the seat he first won in 2009.

“I got the highest Fianna Fail vote in Co. Roscommon at the last local election,” he said. “That was very heartening to get that kind of vote. “I had great support from all of the delegates in west Roscommon, as I have going forward for the convention.”

Cllr. Fitzmaurice is the third person to confirm their intention to contest the Fianna Fáil Selection Convention: Cllr. Eugene Murphy, and Alan Kelly, a newcomer from Rathbrennan, Roscommon, are the others.

Cllr. Fitzmaurice has urged the party to adopt a one-candidate strategy. “I think Fianna Fáil should pick one candidate and every member should back that candidate fully,” he said. “We shouldn’t dilute our vote too much because number 2s mightn’t come back to Fianna Fáil.”

There is a strong rumour, however, that Dr Swanick is so highly regarded by the party on a national level that, even if he failed to come through the convention, he would still be added to the ticket.

However, Cllr. Fitzmaurice said that he would not approve of such an approach. “I have heard this rumour that, come hell or high water, Dublin was going to try to put Keith Swanick on the ticket,” he said. “There is a bit of resentment within grassroots members of the party about that. “There is talk of deals being done and I would be disappointed if this is what is going on. All I want to see is whoever wants to go forward, that it is a fair playing field for everybody.

“At the end of the day, grassroots members pay their membership and they are being told, when they do this, that they would have a decision on who would go forward. That is the way it should be. “I think it would be totally unfair if this is what is going on – that people who pay their membership would be disregarded.” A Castlerea native, Dr Swanick is a GP in Belmullet, Co. Mayo.

Fianna Fáil locally were plunged into disarray recently when a dispute arose between Cllrs. John Keogh and Paddy Kilduff. The party headquarters are currently adjudicating over a complaint made by Cllr. Keogh against his south Roscommon colleague, while Cllr. Ivan Connaughton has been indirectly implicated in the row. There are genuine fears that the impasse between the three councillors could result in at least one of them severing ties with the party.

However, Cllr. Fitzmaurice said: “Fianna Fáil is not in crisis in Co. Roscommon. We are very, very healthy. “There is obviously an issue between two councillors in south Roscommon. I think a lot of that is a personal issue between them. It shouldn’t encroach on the Fianna Fáil grouping in Co. Roscommon.”

Fitzmaurice vows to fight to have A&E re-opened

Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice has pledged to fight to have the emergency department at Roscommon Hospital re-opened if he succeeds in his ambition to become a Fianna Fáil TD.

Though stopping short of promising that the party would deliver such a measure, he said: “If I get elected, it will be top of my agenda. “I will be fighting tooth and nail to see that we have a proper A&E and a proper emergency service in Co. Roscommon. “That would be one of my top priorities.”

Cllr. Fitzmaurice says he has succeeded in receiving a commitment from Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson Billy Kelleher that, if elected to government, the party would vastly improve the county’s ambulance service.

Deputy Kelleher told Cllr. Fitzmaurice: “Fianna Fáil commits to provide additional support in the form of ambulances and personnel.” Cllr. Fitzmaurice described the county’s ambulance service as “absolutely pathetic” at present. “We need more ambulances,” he said.

Roscommon mental health facility closed for over seven months

A mental health facility in Roscommon town, run by the Health Service Executive, has been closed for over seven months – and no reopening date has been confirmed.

  Concern has been growing in the county town recently that Cloonbrackna Hostel may be set to close permanently. The HSE’s Vision for Change document recommends the number of hostels in counties Roscommon and Galway be reduced from 58 to nine.

  However, the HSE has insisted to the Roscommon People that the medium-support facility, which has a capacity of five beds, is closed for “refurbishment works”, but that the period of closure had been extended due to new problems encountered.

  A HSE spokesperson said: “The hostel closed in December 2014 due to necessary refurbishment works. There were two residents in the unit at the time and both have relocated to another similar residence.

  “It was anticipated that this would be a short-term, temporary arrangement. 

  “However, when they commenced the refurbishing of the house, they found a structural crack at the porch entrance and that heightened the repair specification.

  “The repair specification is being upgraded with a view to the works being carried out in the very near 

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