Nurses at Killarney hospital in protest over downgrading fears


NURSES AT Killarney Community Hospital and hospice staged a lunchtime protest yesterday in the first of what is to be a series of demonstrations amid fears the hospital will be downgraded.

The 25 nurses at the 39-bed hospital were balloted last week and voted unanimously to take industrial action after being informed that the post of matron, or director of nursing, at the hospital was not being filled on the retirement in May of the matron. Her duties have been taken over by the matron at the nearby 141-bed St Columbanus, a long-stay facility for the elderly, who will manage both hospitals.

Meanwhile, Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) representatives have reacted with shock at the announcement late yesterday by the HSE South that the two hospitals were being formally amalgamated.

“There has been no consultation with members, no detail worked out about this amalgamation. What not filling the post of director of nursing means is a downgrading of Killarney Community Hospital,” said the INO’s Michael Dineen, who attended the protest with the organisation’s president, Sheila Dickson.

Instead of a step-down recovery facility which also provides palliative and respite care, Killarney would be left only with the long-stay St Columbanus facility, he warned. The INO had been assured in January there would be no change, but this had now taken place without consultation.

There needed to be greater awareness in the area about the threat to the town’s community hospital, local health forum member Cllr Brendan Cronin said. Killarney had already lost its Alzheimer’s facility and its stroke facility, and the town’s psychiatric hospital, once a regional facility, was also closing.

“I am deeply concerned about the future of this hospital. I am calling on the HSE to appoint a new matron so Killarney Community Hospital can retain its identity and integrity,” Mr Cronin said.

The HSE South has denied plans to close or downgrade the hospital, but said this was part of overall restructuring of healthcare facilities in Killarney, which included the development of a primary care facility (a private development by the town’s doctors planned for HSE-owned land).

“The amalgamation of St Columbanus Home Killarney and Killarney Community Hospital provides a significant opportunity to enhance quality of care for residents,” the HSE South said. It was proposed to put in place an additional assistant director of nursing post to support the overall management structure of both facilities. Discussions about “reconfiguration” of residential care beds had been ongoing since January, the statement said.