Health Minister Leo Varadkar has paid an impromptu visit to a HSE run nursing home which was the subject of a damning HIQA report published this week.
Following a 90 minute visit to St Patrick’s Hospital in Carrick on Shannon yesterday the Minister said he was reassured by the quality of nursing care being provided and with the hygiene practices – one of the most controversial aspects of the report.
Mr Varadkar met up to two dozen local people who, when news of his visit broke, gathered at the facility to express solidarity with staff and to express concern for its future.
Relatives of some residents said they were upset by reports that staff have been informed that re-registration was being refused and that the hospital had 28 days to resolve certain issues.
A HSE spokeswoman said registration of residential services was an issue for HIQA. The authority refused to comment on the process now under way in relation to the community hospital.
A spokesman said that if an institution is given a period of 28 days to respond to a report, that did not mean it would be shut down after this period.
In a highly critical report published on Tuesday HIQA found the 85 bed hospital to be in breach of 12 of 18 standards, with some residents have had to wait a month for a shower or bath.
The Minister was told by a number of local people that the report had been unfair to staff and had not reflected on the care provided in the nursing home.
Local business man Liam Farrell whose mother has been a resident for 12 years told Mr Varadkar that St Patrick's was now her home and that he could not speak highly enough of the "affection" shown to her by staff.
“People vote with their feet and this is where people want to be,” Mr Farrell said later.
Another local woman said the focus on baths in the report had given a misleading impression. “Have they never heard of bed baths. Some residents get bed baths three times a day - some older people would be traumatised if they put them into a bath or shower”.
Dorothy Dorran from Dromod Co Leitrim whose husband Ron has been a resident for three years said she was "100pc satisfied" with the care he gets. "I have three daughters who are nurses and they all feel the same. The staff are great and when you walk in there is a lovely atmosphere," he said.
Leitrim county councillor Enda Stenson (Ind) praised Mr Varadkar for coming "into the eye of the storm" to see for himself what was happening in the hospital .
“Staff there are very very hurt because they have been abused on social media, very unfairly,” said Colr Stenson. He said he had told the Minister that there was not a family in Leitrim who had not had someone cared for in the nursing home “and in all my time as a public representative I have never received a complaint about the place.”.
The Minister told locals he had decided to pay a “private” visit to the nursing home en route from the McGill Summer School, to see it first hand, following the HIQA report.
During the visit Mr Varadkar visited a number of patients and spoke with family members and with staff .
A spokesman for the Minister later said that he was “reassured by the quality of nursing care being provided” and that he was also satisfied with hygiene practices. The spokesman added that Mr Varadkar was” particularly struck by the level of support from the community”.
Local Sinn Fein councillor Martin Kenny said that just three weeks ago nurses had protested outside St Patrick's to highlight staffing shortages. "In just four years the numbers have dropped by 20 but there has never been a complaint about the dedication of staff there," he added.