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Patients die in hospital as hospice beds lie idle


 David McGuinness. Photo: Damien Eagers

David McGuinness. Photo: Damien Eagers

David McGuinness. Photo: Damien Eagers

DYING patients are being forced to spend their last days in hospitals while a quarter of the country's hospice beds lie idle.

Blanchardstown councillor David McGuinness of Fianna Fail has hit out at the continued refusal by Government to provide funding for new hospice beds which are not being used.

"It's a national scandal," Mr McGuinness said.

In his own constituency, 24 beds at St Francis Hospice intended for terminally ill patients with cancer, motor neurone disease and AIDS have never opened since they were built because of funding.

A further 22 beds are closed at the Marymount Hospice in Cork since the facility opened in September 2011

Mr McGuinness said these beds were sanctioned by the HSE because they were needed.

"They are still needed. The ordinary people have put huge effort into fundraising with new events every month but it's not being matched by Government. It's really depressing – clearly this is not a priority for government," he said.

He added that the €4.4m needed to open the Blanchardstown beds was "very insignificant in the grand scheme of things".

Chief executive of the Irish Hospice Foundation, Sharon Foley, has described as "unacceptable" the fact that beds provided from public charitable donations are lying idle.

She says patients are being forced to spend the last days in acute hospitals because of the serious shortages of palliative care facilities across the country.

She explains that 12 counties have no in-patient hospice beds whatsoever. The areas worst affected include the North-east, South-east, the Midlands as well as Mayo, Wicklow and Kerry.

"There is a huge inequity around the country," the chief executive said.

A national policy published 12 years ago concluded there should be one palliative care bed for every 10,000 patients.

This would mean that 450 such beds should be provided which is three times the number that are available to patients.