Elderly left in limbo as red tape keeps new €16m unit shut
A new €16m hospital will remain closed for months after its opening date was postponed due to a wrangle between health agencies.
The opening of the 68-bed community hospital in Dingle, Co Kerry, has been postponed because the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) refused to register the premises.
HIQA raised concerns about a number of issues in relation to the registration process with the HSE but last night refused to reveal the nature of the problems.
But elderly patients in Kerry have to continue to rely on the ageing facilities at St Elizabeth's Community hospital -- while a state-of-the-art new hospital lies idle less than 1km away.
Construction work on the hospital finished in December 2008, but the registration process dragged on and the scheduled opening on July 27 had to be abandoned by the HSE.
Last night, the HSE said it had no idea when the community hospital will eventually be able to open.
"The transfer has been postponed due to the fact that the required HIQA registration process for residential care services for older people is not completed on the new facility. It had been hoped that this process would be completed in time to allow the move to go ahead.
"However, it is now clear that this is not achievable and a new transfer of service date will be chosen once registration has been provided," a HSE spokesperson stressed.
Once HIQA confirms all registration issues are in order, an opening date will be announced for Dingle Community Hospital and patient transfers will begin.
"I want to acknowledge all the hard work and commitment of staff in preparing for the move," HSE official Michael Fitzgerald said.
HIQA told the Irish Independent that it is not its policy to comment on ongoing registration matters.
However, HIQA said that its inspection report will eventually be published. No date has been set.
Kerry health campaigners and politicians reacted with outrage to the delayed hospital opening -- and demanded immediate government intervention.
Maureen Dowling, whose mother was one of the patients scheduled for transfer, said everyone is confused over precisely what happened.
"There are 42 patients there (St Elizabeth's) at the moment. The facilities in the new hospital are supposed to be out of this world and we don't see why they (the patients) cannot be moved.
"We just cannot see the sense of keeping them in this old building when there is a lovely new building with great facilities available to them," she said.
Under new health guidelines, hospitals and clinics legally require HIQA registration before they can formally commence operations.
Kerry health campaigner Breda Carroll said it is heartbreaking that a facility which local people had fought so hard for over a 15-year campaign should now remain empty.
"I started writing in 2004 to everybody to let them know the state of the (old) hospital -- it is in a very, very old building and I felt patients didn't have the dignity and facilities they required," she said.
St Elizabeth's dates back to the 1880s though it has gone through several modernisation programmes. It is now considered totally outdated for its 43 patients.