The HSE treatment of nineteen elderly residents of the Cluain Arann welfare home in Tipperary Town which is under threat of closure has been condemned as 'shambolic' and disgraceful.
Angry members of South Tipperary County Council hit out this week at the handling of the future of the Cluain Arann home and said that the HSE had no respect for the elderly.
They expressed outrage at the behaviour of the HSE who they said had told nineteen residents at the home to 'go away and make alternative arrangements'.
The future of the welfare home was highlighted just before Christmas when ten local doctors revealed that they were aware the HSE had intended to close the unit.
County Council members on Monday criticised the handling of the matter by the HSE who they accused of not making their intentions clear in statements issued. They called on the HSE local officials to meet them to clarify matters.
Members said they were prepared to fight to retain the unit which they said was part of the hospital agreement signed in 1996 concerning the transfer of services to Clonmel.
Cllr. Denis Leahy said that local HSE officials should meet the councillors and come out and outline their plans for Cluain Arann. He said the HSE had issued statements on the matter, which nobody could make sense of, but one of the most cynical aspects of the matter was that the HSE had refused to talk to the residents themselves.
He blasted the HSE move as 'an attack on elderly people' who have used the unit as their a home for the last thirty years, some of whom were ten to twelve years there.
"What a shambolic and disgraceful way to treat elderly people in our society - are they closing it down, or moving it or what are they doing with it," asked Cllr. Leahy.
"Tell us the plan in plain simple English. How many of the residents have to move and what arrangements are being made," he said.
He also called on the HSE to explain why people were refused admittance to the welfare home. At the moment there were nineteen residents but it was a thirty bed unit. He saw no reason why people should be refused admittance.
Cllr. Michael Fitzgerald said the shocking news was sprung on the residents of Cluain Arann shortly before Christmas.
"They were told to go away and make other arrangements, this is simply not good enough and the Minister for Health just cannot be located," he said.
He said the people had fought to save the hospital and would fight to save the welfare home in Tipperary Town.
"The people who depend on this welfare home for care are among the most vulnerable in our society. Now they want to close it at the drop of a hat and have told people at this late stage to sort out your own accommodation," he said.
Cllr. Fitzgerald said it was totally wrong for the HSE to be making decisions and the quicker such a situation was brought to a halt the better or there would be rebellions in the street.
He said the HSE had failed and they should not be allowed make decisions now that would effect generations to come.
"WE have to stand up now and fight fo this welfare home. This council's voice needs to be heard," he said.
Cllr. Joe Donovan asked how could the HSE ask the residents to go away now and make their own arrangements.
"It's a bombshell, a disgrace," said Cllr. Donovan.
Cllr. Jack Crowe maintained that the welfare home was protected under the hospital agreement approved by the High Court in 1996 when services were being transferred to Clonmel.
"This legal document is there and we now have to fight this all the way. Now is the time to stand up and fight for this agreement," he said.
Cllr. John Crosse said it was a big worry for all of the residents concerned and he called on the HSE officials to meet the councillors.
In a statement issued on the future of Cluain Arann, the HSE said it was re-organising its elderly care services in the South Tipperary area and was in the process of arranging for the most appropriate care settings for those currently accommodated at the Cluain Arann Welfare Home in Tipperary Town.
The HSE said a process was underway to identify a more appropriate placement for each of its 19 clients.
"To continue to provide services in this facility the HSE would be required to provide 24/7 nursing cover to comply with the requirements of the 2007 Health Act in regard to staffing and levels of qualification of staff, in effect changing the care environment to that required of a public nursing home. Not every individual in Cluain Arann needs public nursing home type care. The HSE therefore is in the process of ensuring that individual client needs will be assessed and placed in the most appropriate residential or community setting. Consultation with residents at Cluain Arann and their nominated family member has been initiated and multidisciplinary assessment and engagement with clients and families re appropriate settings are due to commence shortly," said the HSE.
The statement said staff at the unit have also been consulted and no jobs will be lost as a result of the transfer of residents.
The statement added that the HSE and the staff in its service in South Tipperary area had every empathy for residents of Cluain rann, in recognising that change can be unsettling.
"The HSE will be accommodating the residents wishes as to where they want to be relocated and – where possible – to keep friendships which they have made with other residents at Cluain Arann in mind." the HSE added
"In line with national policy the HSE's aim is to support people in their own home for as long as possible and only have recourse to provision of continuing care (long term inpatient care) in respect of the relatively small numbers of the population who are deemed to require this type of care. Over recent years, services in the community have been expanded to support this policy. Additional home help hours, increased packages of care in the home and additional health care staff have been recruited," concluded the HSE statement.
The Cluain Arann issue arose as part of a discussion on the serious reduction in home help care raised by Cllr. Seamus Healy.
He gave examples of where people in their seventies and eighties had had their home help hours removed altogether or drastically reduced as a result of cutbacks in the last few weeks.
Cllr. Richie Molloy said the health officials should explain the cutback. The provision of a few hours of home help was sometimes all that was needed to prevent somebody going into full time nursing home care.
In a statement on the issue Deputy Tom Hayes voiced his support to fight to retain the services provided in Cluain Arann.
"I am working to arrange a meeting with HSE officials. I am very unhappy about the way that any announcements or decisions have been made about the Cluain Arann Welfare Home in Tipperary and the impact of those decisions on the residents of the welfare home.
"The announcement before Christmas that re-organisation would mean the movement of 19 residents to other facilities was very badly handled, and was grossly unfair to staff and residents of the welfare home. In the days prior to Christmas, people were exposed to a very stressful situation and the poor communication about this is simply not good enough".