Major expansion plans announced for New Ross Community Hospital

Community hospital committee. From left; Sean Reidy, Dr. Mark Walsh, Seamus Kennedy vice chairperson, John O'Shea chairperson, Deirdre Caulfield and Bob Doyle. Photo; Mary Browne

David LoobyNew Ross Standard

New Ross Community Hospital is set to expand over the coming years from a 35-bed to a 50-bed facility to bring it in line with modern nursing home requirements.

John O’Shea is chairman of the hospital’s board of directors and he said: “The biggest project that we are looking at is to grow the hospital on the footprint. It’s very, very early stages. We realise that because our occupancy stands at 34 plus one palliative care unit, so we are restricted. Unfortunately, we have RIPs and our numbers can be down to 29 residents in a week, which can have an affect on income.”

The hospital gets funding from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), private residents and some Section 39 funding.

“That’s helpful but it doesn’t always cover our requirement. The HSE were very good to us during Covid but it was touch and go at times. You still had the same staff numbers and heating bills to pay.”

During the negotiations last year with the NTPF, it was suggested the hospital needs 50 residents to be at an optimum level.

11 rooms are double occupancy but HIQA want single occupancy rooms.

“That’s an issue that we have to try and resolve in the next three to five years,” said Mr O’Shea.

Discussions with architects will happen and as the land is owned by the HSE, an agreement will have to be worked out.

“We will seek funding from multiple sources. We have to get up to 50 beds. Individual rooms are the norm now. We haven’t been given a specific date by which to get them built but they (HIQA) won’t allow it to go on forever. At the end of the day we want the hospital to thrive. When it was founded 36 years ago, the then South Eastern Health Board wanted to close it and the board at the time found money and they’ve gotten the community hospital to where it is today.”

The funding model is not for profit, but it’s not for loss either, said Mr O’Shea, who was named hospital chairman at the end of June of last year.

“We have to wash our face. Tadhg Furlong launched a fundraiser in late 2019. It didn’t bring in as much as we hoped but I think part of that was down to timing. It was held in November 2019 and then the pandemic hit.

“We have ten or 15 people who donate every single month through direct debit and we get legacy donations. We had one recently from a lady who died in 2013 and she donated £10,000 which was completely out of the blue and that money has been ring-fenced for any future development. The Barrow Wheelers held a memorial cycle for Mark Flood of Brooks jewellers and his wife Mary donated part of the money from that cycling event to the community hospital. That was fantastic that she thought of us.”

The hospital has a new director of nursing, Soniya Rachel Thomas, who was previously deputy director of nursing.

“Soniya is a very diligent, caring and thorough person and her attention to detail is second to none. Several years ago a financial controller was appointed and a new financial controller has replaced him, Carmel Morrissey, who is from New Ross and is living in Shanbogh.”

One of the things Mr O’Shea wanted to focus on was improving the food at the hospital.

“We plan to introduce more homemade food that is more nutritious. We’re working alongside a dietitian from the HSE. We asked Karen Molloy of KM Nutrition to help us to develop more wholesome menus. We also want to work with more local suppliers.”

During the pandemic maintenance was a challenge so a new programme is in place.

Mr O’Shea and the directors are confident the hospital’s reputation will help drive the fundraising.

To this end the directors are planning fundraising events in New Ross for later this year.

“My father was born there so people like me have a personal connection with the hospital. We get lovely letters from people thanking us for the care their parents have gotten over time. When people die there are always kind words said about the staff, many of whom are there a long, long time and that is really important because there’s that consistency and home away from home feeling. We even had a couple who recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary there.”