PATIENTS were forced to move to a private nursing home because a hospital could not afford to keep a surgical ward open, the Irish Independent has learned.
Four patients at Roscommon Hospital were sent to Clover Hill Nursing Home in Lisagallon, Co Roscommon on Friday evening because a surgical ward was closing for the weekend as a result of cutbacks.
They were re-admitted to the hospital on Monday morning.
A spokesperson for the HSE confirmed the move and blamed it on an "exceptionally busy" January for the lack of available beds.
Four patients in the surgical ward had to be moved to other parts of the hospital because it only operates for five days a week. In turn, the hospital had to move four other patients to the nearby nursing home in order to make room for them.
A hospital spokeswoman confirmed: "Last Friday there were four patients on the five-day ward at Roscommon Hospital who were not ready to be discharged and yet it was not possible to keep this ward open for the weekend due to staffing levels.
''As part of the hospital's contingency plan, the patient list was reviewed by a consultant who identified four patients from the hospital who could be safely moved to a nursing home for the weekend so that the four patients on the five-day ward could be accommodated.
"The four patients who moved to the nursing home for the weekend returned to the hospital on Monday."
The surgical ward was cut back to five days last March due to changes at the hospital.
This included the closure of the emergency department in 2011 and the loss of a significant number of nursing staff through early retirement.
The movement of patients to the nursing home has been criticised by Roscommon Hospital Action Group, which has been campaigning against cuts.
"They say they don't have the resources to keep the ward open but then they are paying for private nursing home beds in order to move patients. This is just another example of unacceptable cutbacks at the hospital. Where will this stop?," asked campaigner John McDermott.
The HSE has insisted that the health of patients was never at risk as a result of the transfer.
"As there are a number of patients in the hospital at the moment who are medically discharged and waiting for transfer to other healthcare facilities, it was possible to safely move four patients to a nursing home for the weekend," it stated.