New hospital 'like stepping into Gresham' for residents
It seemed like the last word in luxury as Padraig Lynch stepped into his new home yesterday. "I thought I was in the Gresham Hotel," the 91-year-old said.
Mr Lynch was among 43 residents finally moving in at West Kerry Community Hospital in Dingle yesterday.
He was the second patient over the threshold of the new hospital shortly after 8.30am. Minutes before, staff at the hospital had welcomed its oldest resident, Jack Kavanagh (103), from Ventry, Co Kerry, who was greeted by applause.
The elderly patients have transferred from nearby St Elizabeth's Hospital to the €16.4m facility in the town.
The opening of the hospital had been delayed by almost two years, awaiting the granting of a certificate of registration by the Health Information and Quality Authority.
"I thought it was the Gresham Hotel I was in when I came in first this morning," Mr Lynch told the Irish Independent.
"I'm very happy but I'm sad as well. For me it has been a very happy two-and-a-half years and it seems like a few days.
"My happiest day of the week was on Sunday when I accompanied the Eucharistic minister, ringing the bell to remind the patients the Lord was coming.
"I'd like to thank the doctors, the matron, the nurses and the wonderful staff for looking after me."
The former sacristan of St Mary's Church in Dingle, where he served for 55 years, says he's looking forward to helping out at the oratory in the new hospital.
It was a happy day tinged with sadness for both patients and staff as they bid farewell to St Elizabeth's Hospital, which dates back to the 1840s.
It was particularly emotional for former matron of St Elizabeth's, Annette Cremin -- the fourth generation of her family to work in the hospital.
"My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all worked in the old hospital as did I for 23 years," Ms Cremin said.
"It was a very important place for me. I loved every stick and stone of it. It was a wonderful building that provided a wonderful service to the people of west Kerry."
The HSE said it now intended to sell the historic St Elizabeth's Hospital, which stands on 24 acres.
The building used to be the site of a workhouse and orphanage. It was also where Blasket Island writer Peig Sayers died in 1958.
Shane and Maura O'Connor, who sold the site of the new hospital to the HSE for a nominal fee more than 10 years ago, admitted they were beginning to think the hospital would never open.
"But it's absolutely fantastic to see a building of this magnificence here," Mr O'Connor said.