Cork hospice says services under threat due to money problems

Marymount letter to Minister for Health blames pay restoration and seeks extra funds

Marymount Hospice has a specialist inpatient unit consisting of 44 beds and provides specialist palliative care. Photograph: iStock

Marymount Hospice has a specialist inpatient unit consisting of 44 beds and provides specialist palliative care. Photograph: iStock

 

Marymount Hospice in Cork, which serves a population of more than 500,000 people, has told Minister for Health Simon Harris it “can no longer sustain its current services” due to financial pressures caused by pay restoration and “significantly inadequate resources”.

The warning is contained in a letter sent to Simon Harris last November by the chairman of the hospice board. In the letter, chairman Kieran Barry requested “additional financial support in order to preserve our current level of services”.

Mr Barry wrote: “We are operating at a significant loss and without additional funding support, we will not be able to maintain our current level of service. Any reduction in service would inevitably have a significant impact on the health services provided across Cork.”

Marymount is a so-called section 39 agency, which receives HSE funding in addition to other sources of revenue, but whose employees are not public servants and are not subject to public service pay scales. However, the hospice applies HSE pay scales throughout its organisation, and recession-era emergency pay cuts known as Fempi were imposed on their workforce.

Mr Barry said the annual cost of pay restoration is projected to increase from €277,608 in 2017 to almost €1.3 million in 2021. He asked that the request for additional funding “be addressed urgently as the board of directors need to consider the quantum of service deliverance in 2019 to avoid Marymount’s board of directors trading recklessly”.

New facility

Marymount Hospice moved to a new facility in Curraheen, on the periphery of Cork city, in 2011. It has a specialist inpatient unit consisting of 44 beds and provides specialist palliative care.

Internal briefing notes prepared for Minister for Older People Jim Daly and released to The Irish Times show that the HSE has been monitoring the financial situation at Marymount.

“[Cork-Kerry Community Healthcare] has been concerned about the recurring and increasing revenue deficit at Marymount for some time.”

The hospice received a once-off payment of €1 million in 2015, and Cork-Kerry Community Healthcare later agreed to provide another €1 million in staged payments if the hospice hit certain targets, including annual cost savings of €450,000.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that a “phased sustainability plan” had been agreed with Marymount and that €2 million had been made available within the National Service Plan for services in the hospice and at one other facility. “This funding will be released to the HSE on approval of implementation plans. The department understands that the HSE is in ongoing engagement with Marymount Hospice in that regard”.

Marymount chief executive Sarah McCloskey said “communications are ongoing” in respect of the request made by the hospice.