September 28, 2021

Harris called on to keep promises as fury erupts over St Joseph’s funding

Health Minster Simon Harris has been called on to honour his promises to keep St Joseph’s dementia care home open after it emerged that the facility must stop admitting new patients.

There has been a furious reaction from families, members of the public and local representatives after St Joseph’s said its funding crisis had not been resolved.

“Minister Harris welcomes the progress made with the HSE. He encourages both the NTPF and St Joseph’s to continue its discussions to find a solution,” a statement from Mr Harris’s office said.

“Minister Harris is legally prohibited from intervening in those negotiations but his position remains unchanged. He wants to see this vital facility remain open.”

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson and Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly has expressed his “horror” at the situation  adding that the move was a major step towards full closure, possibly within weeks.

“What we’re seeing here is outrageous backtracking from the Government,” Mr Donnelly said.

“Minister for Health Simon Harris was very quick to take to the airwaves to reassure his voters that St Joseph’s would be saved when it first revealed it was in danger of closing its doors in a funding crisis. He made similar promises on the floor of the Dáil.

“The time for empty promises is over. St Joseph’s must remain open.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady has also called on the Health Minister to honour the  commitment he gave in the Dáil last month and ensure that immediate funding is put in place to keep St Joseph’s open.

“The threatened closure of S t Joseph’s in Shankill has come as a great shock to residents, users of the day-care facility, families and staff, many of whom are from Wicklow.

“Last month I questioned the Minister for Health Simon Harris in the Dáil about the threatened closure of St Joseph’s.

“He gave categorical assurances that the funding would be provided to keep the doors open.

“The current situation which has been caused by the gross underfunding of St Joseph’s by the government is causing anxiety, stress and uncertainty for the service users, their families and all the staff in the facility.”

Social Democrats General Election Candidate for Wicklow, Cllr Jennifer Whitmore added: “I have personal experience of a loved one living with dementia and the kind of dementia-specific care that is provided at St. Josephs can radically improve a person’s circumstances and brings incredible relief to loved ones as a result.

“The uncertainty that the residents and family members have gone through over the last few weeks since St. Josephs first raised their funding concerns in the public arena must end now.

“It is not fair that families, who already have incredible stress and worry placed on them, now have to worry about whether they have to locate an alternative home for their loved ones.

“Minister Harris needs to ensure funding is provided and that he keep his promise that the doors to St. Joseph’s remain open.”

St Joseph’s in Shankill is the State’s largest nursing home specifically for dementia patients and  said at the weekend that it has no other option but to cease residential admissions with immediate effect.

Managed by St John of God Hospital, St Joseph’s accommodates 60 people living with dementia and provides two respite beds and 120 daycare places.

Management first flagged difficulties with funding a month ago, saying the facility has been operating at a “significant and unsustainable” deficit for the past seven years.

In recent weeks, agreement was reached with the HSE on the funding of daycare places into next year.

However, talks with the National Treatment Purchase Fund, which funds the residential places, failed to break the deadlock, resulting in Sunday’s announcement by management.

Chief executive Emma Balmaine expressed disappointment at the failure of talks with the NTPF to progress.

“We will of course continue to engage but the gap between what’s on offer and what is needed to sustain this high-dependency service into the future, is still far too wide.

“We will do everything possible to save St Joseph’s. However, time is running out in respect of securing the necessary budget for 2020, and our board is firmly of the view that there is no basis as of now, to enable us accept any new admissions at this time.”

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