THREE elderly nursing home residents managed to secure a High Court order halting the Health Services Executive's proposed closure of their facility
Maureen Delaney (89), Bridget O'Neill (92), and Catherine Kelly (93) have all been cared for at the 28-bed Abbeyleix Community Nursing Unit in Co Laois for the past three years.
The women claimed they left behind families and communities when they moved into the unit and regarded it as their home. They also claimed the HSE had decided to close the facility for financial reasons and without consultation with them.
They challenged the HSE's proposed closure of the facility in the High Court last month and yesterday were rewarded with a three-month consultation period on the home's future. Peter Finlay, counsel for the HSE, said his client agreed to the order quashing the proposed closure decision.
The court decision has raised local hopes for the future of the facility in Abbeyleix.
However, spokesman for the Abbeyleix and District Hospital Action Committee, Gary O'Keefe, warned residents that the decision had simply "reset the clock to zero" in terms of the proposed closure.
"This is anything but over. I have been warning people not to start patting themselves on the back," he said.
Mr O'Keefe criticised the HSE's recent attempts at consultation and called for the inclusion of the hospital action committee in future talks.
He claimed yesterday's decision was the result of pressure from the committee's campaign.
According to Mr O'Keefe, Health Minister Dr James Reilly had been open to the views of the committee during a recent meeting.
"He wasn't just giving lip service, he was listening," said Mr O'Keefe.
He now believes the consultation on the future of the hospital should only begin after the minister visits the facility.
Mary Madden whose father has been a resident at the hospital for the past seven years said he and his fellow residents were thrilled at the announcement. However, Ms Madden vowed to continue the fight to keep the unit open.
"It is good news for the moment and I am not going to rock the boat because the patients are over the moon," she added.
Ms Madden said residents in the unit had been through an "awful time" in recent weeks and that the nurses have also been acting as counsellors for worried residents.
In the High Court yesterday, Mr Finlay said the dispute in the residents' action related to "only a proposal to consider closing" the Abbeyleix unit and no decision had been taken to that effect. On consent of the HSE, costs have also been awarded to the residents.
The court heard last week that the recent removal of three beds from the unit caused such concern to some residents they were afraid to leave their beds.
A HSE spokeswoman said it had agreed to "set aside" its decision to consider closing the unit and will begin consultations with residents.