Hospital to close if funding not found


ST JOSEPH’S private hospital in Sligo, known locally as Garden Hill, will close on January 21st unless investment of €250,000 is found immediately, staff and consultants have been told.

The owner, Mount Carmel Medical Group, has invited consultants based at St Joseph’s to invest in the 19-bed facility. A number of proposals were put to consultants at a meeting two weeks ago, including that they make an immediate investment of €250,000. It is understood the option of an eventual buyout was also proposed.

Unions have been told bluntly that unless the investment is found by January 20th the hospital will close on January 21st, putting an estimated 40 staff out of work.

While sources said it would be in consultants’ interests to save the hospital given some of them see dozens of private patients there every week, there are mixed views among consultants.

A source who complained of a lack of information provided to consultants on the hospital’s financial situation said it was akin to “blackmail” to suggest it would shut within weeks if they did not cough up the money. “It is a very worrying situation, but we are doctors, not business people,” one source told The Irish Times.

The source said consultants had been shocked when the situation was spelled out to them in mid-December. Another said the hospital’s future was very uncertain, and expressed sympathy for staff who were “caught in the middle”.

Pádraig Peyton, organiser in Siptu’s health services sector, confirmed the union and representatives of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation had a meeting with management two weeks ago at which worker representatives were told without new investors the hospital would not survive.

He said he was optimistic following further communications with management that the necessary investment would be found.

Local Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry, the party’s Seanad spokesman on health, said the main priority was safeguarding the jobs. He also warned of the negative impact for Sligo General Hospital if consultants decided not to stay in Sligo.

“I would be very concerned about the negative impact for Sligo General Hospital, but the main priority now must be the staff in St Joseph’s,” he said.

It was recently reported the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) is in crucial debt talks with the Mount Carmel Medical Group, which also owns Dublin’s Mount Carmel hospital and the Aut Even Hospital in Kilkenny.

Some loans taken out by the group have been transferred into Nama.

Services at the Sligo hospital were significantly reduced in 2009 when more than 25 staff were laid off. Despite an ongoing campaign by unions, the staff have not received all their redundancy entitlements as the owners pleaded inability to pay at the time.