Elderly residents 'will fight to prevent closure of nursing home'
ELDERLY residents at the Abbeyleix Community Nursing unit in Co Laois are to fight against plans to close the facility.
The HSE decided to close the unit because of funding and staffing problems and problems it forsees in meeting HIQA standards.
News of the closure has caused widespread concern in the area, where more than 1,000 people attended a meeting on Monday night.
As a result of the closure, 28 long-stay residents will be moved and 42 HSE nurses and assistants redeployed. Alternative respite care will be arranged for eight others.
Speaking outside the hospital yesterday, resident Bridget O'Neill (92) described the residents' treatment as unfair and insisted she wouldn't leave without a fight.
"We are happy here. This is our home. I think it is very unfair. I am 92, I know very well what I am talking about. I have my senses the same as I had 50, 40 years ago . . . I'm not leaving there without a fight."
Mary McCartney (89) has been living at the hospital for eight years. "I love it in here," she said.
"It's like home to me, the way we are treated and everything else. I'm not going out of here -- I'm telling you now -- 'til they take me out in a box."
Abbeyleix and district hospital action committee chairman Brian Maher described the nursing unit as "a key part of our community".
"The people who we have here are part of our community and they want to continue for the rest of their lives in that community," he said.
Apart from the social impact it would cause, Mr Maher questioned the feasibility of the closure. He said the HSE would struggle to find community nursing places and many patients would have to be placed in private nursing homes.
According to secretary of the action group, Karen Shiel, "just a month ago HIQA issued a statement that they had no issue with this hospital. This is the first hospital that has been targeted that is actually up to standard."
HSE Midlands area manager Joseph Ruane said "a decision to close Abbeyleix nursing unit is not one that is taken easily and all alternative options have been considered before such a decision would be made."
Mr Ruane said consultation was taking place between the residents, their families and the HSE with a view to moving the residents to both private and public units.
The hospital action committee is expecting around 8,000 people to attend a march in the town on Sunday November 20.