Co. Tipperary district hospital is designated as "step down" care unit for Covid-19 patients

Politicians seek answers from Health Minister and HSE about St Brigid's Hospital future after the Covid-19 crisis

Aileen Hahesy


Aileen Hahesy

Co. Tipperary district hospital is designated as "step down" care unit for Covid-19 patients

St Brigid's District Hospital in Carrick-on-Suir

Carrick-on-Suir's St Brigid's District Hospital has been designated as a “step down” care unit for people recovering from Covid-19 but some local politicians are voicing concerns about the hospital's future after the pandemic crisis passes.

Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath has  also highlighted the district hospital's staff are worried for their future as there are currently no patients in the hospital. He claimed the hospital has “effectively been closed” since last week.

The Independent TD has also criticised the HSE's decision to accommodate patients from Carrick-on-Suir and its hinterland requiring convalescent, respite and palliative care at other HSE community healthcare facilities in South Tipperary.

Deputy McGrath argues there isn't the capacity in South Tipperary's other facilities for patients from Carrick-on-Suir and its hinterland.

In a statement, the HSE confirmed that demand for Covid-19 step down beds at St Brigid's Hospital has reduced over the last week and admissions to St Brigid's Hospital has been temporarily suspended.

 However, it stressed admissions of patients recovering from Covid-19 to St Brigid's will resume when required. 

It's understood staff currently based at St Brigid's Hospital maybe re-assigned to other HSE community healthcare services if there isn't enough demand for their services at the hospital. 

The HSE pointed out there is a “critical requirement” for staff elsewhere in community healthcare  services at this time. 

St Brigid's District Hospital ordinarily provides convalescent, respite and palliative care and is registered with the Health Information & Quality Authority (HIQA) to accommodate up to 16 residents.

The hospital was designated in the past few weeks as a “step down” Covid-19 care facility serving the South Tipperary area. The patients admitted there have been treated at an acute hospital for the virus and recovered sufficiently to be discharged but are not yet well enough to return home. 

The HSE said interim arrangements are in place for patients requiring residential convalescent, respite and palliative care to be accommodated elsewhere in the HSE’s community healthcare services in the South Tipperary area.

And it pointed out that due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic public health emergency, there are no plans in the short term to resume St Brigid's customary usage for convalescent,  respite and palliative care beds. 

The statement HSE/South East Community Healthcare said it was deeply appreciative of the support all of its services are receiving in the South Tipperary area at this challenging time. 

“The HSE apologises for any inconvenience and assures the public that the welfare of patients is a priority for staff and management,” the statement concluded 

Deputy McGrath, however, has contacted the Minister for Health and HSE Area Manager highlighting his concerns and demanding answers about the HSE's plans for St Brigid's Hospital after the Covid-19 crisis abates. 

He said a number of St Brigid's Hospital staff have contacted him and raised with him their serious concerns about their future and the future of the hospital because the hospital was “effectively closed down” at the moment.  

“The hospital now lies empty and staff are fearful for their future. St. Brigid's is a wonderful district hospital providing step down palliative care for the elderly and it has a long association with Carrick-on-Suir. 

“It is also home to 3 of the 5 hospice beds across South Tipperary so it is hugely worrying that the hospital now lies empty,” he outlined. 

“We all understand that forward planning was required to prepare extra capacity for a surge of Covid-19 patients should a surge happen but to think that an entire district hospital now lies empty would suggest a massive waste in resources and questions need to be answered on the plans for the hospital,” continued the Independent TD. 

He argued the health services must be allowed to continue to operate to care for all of the everyday non Covid-19 related health issues during this crisis. 

Sinn Fein TD Martin Browne and Carrick-on-Suir SF councillor David Dunne said they had also contacted the Minister for Health and HSE after some of the 29 staff at St Brigid's Hospital highlighted with them serious concerns about their future and the future of the hospital. 

They said St Brigid's staff and the families who had loved ones being cared for at the hospital were looking for confirmation about the long term plans for the facility.  

They called for St Brigid's Hospital to be returned to its original use serving the 6000 population of Carrick-on-Suir and the thousands more in its large hinterland.