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No day care services available in Laois as all three are currently closed

Abbeyleix Hospital
Abbeyleix Hospital

Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley raised the issue of a lack of day care services throughout Laois in the Dail recently.

Deputy Stanley explained how through refurbishment works in Abbeyleix, Mountmellick and Portlaoise, all services have been withdrawn.

Addressing Minister for State at the Department of Health, Mary Butler, Mr Stanley particularly made the case for Abbeyleix Hospital.

The closure of the day care centre there has affected up to 100 elderly people.

Deputy Stanley said: “Day care services at the Abbeyleix community nursing unit, which were attended more than 100 people, have been closed.

“The hospital has ceased services to allow for its refurbishment and day care services were being housed in a part of the hospital that was being used for storage, but I am told it is not going to reopen.

“This has left a huge area of east and south County Laois without services, in areas such as Timahoe, Swan, Ballinakill, Durrow, Rathdowney, Borris-in-Ossory and, of course, Abbeyleix itself, as well as all the areas surrounding that.

“Abbeyleix hospital offered an excellent service. It also provided services for inpatients in the nursing unit, such as chiropody and physiotherapy, along with social activities, which are very important.

“It is puzzling that Portlaoise day care centre is closed for refurbishment at the same time, and I do not see activity around it, or at least there was not up to one week ago. The doors just closed.

“I am not arguing against refurbishment or any investment in facilities such as this but we need to find out why HSE management takes these decisions.

“Mountmellick day care centre, too, is closed for refurbishment and extension, meaning the entire county has been left without day care services.

“Laois has no day care services and that is not acceptable. What kind of decision-making is this? Of course, we need to upgrade and invest in facilities and that is all overdue, but we should not close the whole lot to do that.

“Elderly people may feel they do not have a voice, so I convey to the Minister of State the feelings that have been expressed to me by many families and elderly people throughout the county. We have been left with no day care services.

“We are now out of Covid, and the Minister of State can imagine how important that one outing a week was, so we should try to provide for it.

“It is a part of the service, along with home care in some cases, that is needed to keep people in their own homes. Abbeyleix hospital needs to reopen, as do the centres in Portlaoise and Mountmellick, although I ask the Minister of State to focus on the one in Abbeyleix in her response.”

In reply, Deputy Butler said: “As the Deputy pointed out, Abbeyleix day care service has been closed since March 2020 due to Covid-19.

“Older person services in Laois are working closely with HSE estates to identify alternative suitable accommodation for the service to resume. The Deputy will be aware renovation works are under way to improve the residential services at the hospital.

“To facilitate work, these services were relocated to the part of the building where day services had previously been provided.

“These works, which were required from the perspective of infection prevention and control, public health and HIQA in light of the pandemic, are expected to be completed by quarter 1 of 2022.

“On completion, the residential service will be transferred to its original location on the ground floor. Portlaoise hospital proposes to have 18 intermediate care beds available as part its winter planning once this part of the building has been vacated by older person services. This is the area of the hospital where the day service was based.

“As an interim solution, people who attended the day service in Abbeyleix hospital will be offered a place in line with infection prevention and control and public health advice at the day service on the Timahoe Road when it reopens following necessary renovation works.

“These renovations are also expected to be completed in quarter 1 of 2022.

“The HSE has confirmed to the Department that it is actively sourcing an alternative suitable building to provide a day service in Abbeyleix and the environs of Mountrath and Timahoe.

“The suitability of the options put forward will be considered by older person services as an alternative day service location for the people who previously attended Abbeyleix hospital.

“This is currently at the early stages of planning. The HSE has reassured the Department that the staff of the community nursing unit continue to liaise with people who previously attended the service on an ongoing basis.

“I was not aware there were none open in Laois and I give the Deputy a guarantee I will keep a close eye on that.

“To get older people back into the communities, it is vital they have day care centres. I will liaise with the Deputy again on it.”

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.