Outrage as funding cut for hospice unit

Seamus Duke There is outrage in County Roscommon this week at the news that the HSE have diverted funding of €4 million which was earmarked for a dedicated eight-bed hospice support unit at Roscommon County Hospital. The Mayo/Roscommon Hospice movement has expressed its dismay at the news and has demanded that the funding be re-instated immediately in order to allow it to continue its development of palliative care services in the area. Speaking to The Roscommon People yesterday (Wednesday), Chief Executive of Mayo/Roscommon Hospice, Cynthia Clampett, said that they were shocked and angered by the news. ‘We were called to a meeting with the HSE last Tuesday and told that the whole capital budget was being reviewed and that any level two facilities planned under the capital programme would be put on hold or stopped altogether and that would include the work in Roscommon. The unit planned for Roscommon is a support unit – a level two facility – and now only level three facilities will be considered for expenditure,’ she explained. ‘We are totally devastated by this news. It’s like being hit over the head with a sledgehammer. Not alone was there a big public announcement on this, but I have confirmation in black and white in letters from the HSE that this was going ahead. We even had a code number for the project, but now they have decided to pull the funding altogether. We are totally outraged at the news – a total bombshell ‘ she said. ‘In addition to the funding that we were promised for the unit in Roscommon Hospital, we have to raise one million euro each year for our homecare services and that work will have to go on regardless. I am worried that this news will have a detrimental effect on our fundraising but I want to tell the public through your paper that we want their fundraising efforts more than ever now,’ she said. ‘I am appealing to the Government to the HSE or whoever to please restore this funding to us because this service is so badly needed. This decision is down to the HSE and the HSE alone and I am appealing to all politicians to do what they can to reverse this decision. I do not want to make a political football out of a serious issue like hospice care and I couldn’t care less about what politicians are involved or what party they are, but we have got to pull out all the stops to restore this funding.’ she said. ‘What we are talking about here is services for real people, vulnerable people and it is they and their families who will suffer if this decision is not reversed,’ she concluded. Fine Gael Deputy Denis Naughten said that he is shocked at the news. ‘I cannot believe it. It’s terrible news for the service in Roscommon. In 2007, ninety people used this service at Roscommon County Hospital, so it’s a service that is badly needed. This withdrawal of funds means that these people and their families will have to go elsewhere for care’ he said. ‘I am calling on the new Junior Minister Michael Finneran to use his influence to get the HSE to reverse this disastrous decision. It’s another outrageous abuse of power by the HSE. It would appear that every time there is a shortfall, the most vulnerable people suffer. It’s a further indication that the HSE is out of control and is a law unto itself. First we have had the plans to downgrade the hospital and now this. It’s time that we called a halt,’ he said. The Hospice movement has done excellent work in the county over many years and it deserves to have this unit built and staffed,’ he concluded. Mayor of Roscommon Cllr. John Kelly said, ‘It’s a disgrace. The people responsible for this decision should be ashamed of themselves and the decision should be reversed now. It’s the same old story. When there is a problem with budgets in the HSE West, then the cuts have to come in Roscommon. Hit the weakest county all the time’ he said. ‘There was a big brouhaha when this was announced and there was plenty of people around to take the credit for it at the time, but those same people should now come out and say what they are going to do about it. I’m sick and tired of broken promises especially on health issues. To affect palliative care is a shocking disgrace’ he concluded. Fine Gael Deputy Frank Feighan said, ‘I’m totally shocked by this terrible news. We are hitting the softest targets again. To pull this funding is unforgiveable and we will have to do what we can to try to get it restored.’