Irish hospital to close–300 face sack!

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Workers marching in Dublin with a clear message
Workers marching in Dublin with a clear message

THE Irish trade union SIPTU has met with the provisional liquidators appointed to Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin.

SIPTU Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: ‘We are deeply concerned by this move. We will be seeking to explore all possibilities for maintaining the operation of this landmark hospital.’

He added: ‘Our members working at Mount Carmel have always shown great dedication to the care of their patients and this news has been a devastating blow to them. SIPTU will be seeking to ensure that everything is done to explore all possible avenues to protect the hospital and the jobs associated with it.’

SIPTU represents workers from several grades at the hospital, which has a total workforce of over 300.

More than 300 staff at Mount Carmel Hospital will lose their jobs after the directors of the hospital applied to the High Court for the appointment of a liquidator.

The court has appointed Declan Taite and Anne O’Dwyer of RSM Farrell Grant Sparks as Joint Provisional Liquidators.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan heard that Mount Carmel Medical (South Dublin Ltd), which owns the hospital, is insolvent and unable to pay its debts.

In a statement the liquidators said they ‘have taken court mandated responsibility for the operation of the hospital and will plan and manage an orderly full wind down’.

They said: ‘All current patients in the hospital will be fully cared for in Mount Carmel.

‘Obstetrics patients scheduled over the coming days will also be fully cared for in Mount Carmel. All of these patients will be contacted by phone to confirm these arrangements.’

It said that obstetrics patients booked in for maternity services in the coming weeks and months will be transferred to alternative maternity hospitals.

A helpline and email facility has been set up to deal with queries from patients.

The National Maternity Hospital has said that is able to assist any women who wish to have their babies in Holles Street.

It said: ‘The hospital has been in contact with lead clinicians at Mount Carmel over recent months discussing contingency plans to be put into action in the event of this situation arising and so while this is an emergency situation, it is not unanticipated.’

The hospital also said the Mount Carmel consultants will be involved in the care of women.

Meanwhile, there have been two bids for the hospital, both of which contained so many caveats that they were not acceptable and could have involved the risk of additional financial exposure for the taxpayer.

It is understood the hospital had been hit by changes in the health insurance market and the downturn in the economy.

There is no indication yet of what redundancy terms will apply.

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has said that while he regrets the imminent closure of Mount Carmel, the HSE is working to ensure patients of the hospital will have their care transferred to other maternity hospitals in Dublin.

Reilly said there were no plans by the government to turn Mount Carmel into a public hospital in the foreseeable future.

He said he did not believe there will be massive pressure put on public maternity hospitals in Dublin because the birth rate is dropping.

However, he acknowledged the stress that the announcement has brought on the staff and patients.

The minister was speaking at the launch of a new delivery suite at the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on Reilly to personally get involved in trying to save hospital.

Speaking on RTÉ Six One News, INMO representative Phillip McAnenly said: ‘I’d appeal to the Minister for Health, James Reilly to get involved personally to try and save the 350 jobs here and to ensure patient safety and to ensure the capacity that is here for public patients would continue.’

McAnenly said he still believes that with some innovation and imagination it is possible to keep the 100 beds at the hospital open.

He said that for the next 48 hours the government still has a fully functioning hospital at their disposal.

McAnenly said many of the 200 INMO members at Mount Carmel have 30 years experience and had been told today that elective surgery is being cancelled from tomorrow, and that the gates will close within two weeks.

He also said a large number of public patients had been transferred to the hospital in recent weeks to create extra capacity in public hospitals that are overcrowded.

McAnenly said transferring these patients back into public facilities now is going to worsen an already impossible situation.

The company sought to be wound-up after what the court heard was ‘a disastrous 2013’ and when NAMA decided it was no longer in a position to provide working capital to the company, which allowed the hospital to trade.

• INMO has called on government to reverse budget cuts and immediately invest in the health service.

INMO, following an analysis of the full year figures, has found that Trolley/Ward watch figures, which measure hospital wide overcrowding, were up by 2% in 2013.

A total of 67,863 patients waited for admission to a hospital bed in 2013 compared with 66,308 in 2012. 57,286 spent time on trolleys, in Emergency Departments across the country and a further 10,577 sick people spent time on trolleys, chairs or beds on in-patient wards/units above the stated complement of that ward/unit.

This gives a picture of whole hospital overcrowding endured in 2013 as the crisis has now become hospital-wide in many areas.

As the INMO only began to count the number of patients inappropriately placed on wards/units (as advised by members on the ground) in March 2013, the actual Ward Watch figure will be higher.

There were very welcome improvements in some hospitals during 2013, including Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda, Sligo and the Mater.

However, a number of hospitals showed an increase in numbers, e.g. Beaumont, Connolly, St James’s and Tallaght Hospitals in Dublin and the Mercy Hospital, Cork, Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick, Mullingar and Portlaoise Hospitals in the Midlands as well as Navan, South Tipperary, St Luke’s, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford Hospitals.

The fact remains that after almost 10 years focus on this issue all hospitals still struggle with trolleys on a daily basis.

INMO General Secretary, Liam Doran said: ‘The increase in overcrowding of 2% in 2013 is very disappointing.

‘It is accepted that the Special Delivery Unit has, and is, working hard to reduce the numbers on trolleys, in Emergency Departments, across the country. However the problem is now compounded as, in some hospitals, patients, on a daily basis, are being placed on chairs, trolleys and extra beds on already full wards/units – a practice which is unsafe for patients and makes it almost impossible for INMO members to practice safe care.’

Doran continued: ‘There are 2,131 beds closed across the country and 5,100 nursing/midwifery posts have been cut in the past five years across all services including the community. In addition the health service budget has been cut by 619 million euros for 2014.

‘It is difficult to see how this crisis, which has been on-going since late 2004, can be solved without major investment. It was deemed a ‘National Emergency’ in 2006 but the numbers have increased by 22% since then.

‘The INMO is now calling on the Government to urgently re-think its position on the health services.

Lessons must be learned from the Mid Staffordshire Enquiry in the UK which found that reaching targets became more important than patient care, leading to hundreds of avoidable deaths. We cannot, and will not, allow that to happen in our health service.’