FOUR TIPPERARY TD’s have promised to fight for the creation of a new nursing home facility in Roscrea, should plans for the Dean Maxwell Community Nursing Home to cease providing long term care go ahead.
Facing a downgrading of services in 2021 as a result of not meeting HIQA building standards, the issue facing the Dean Maxwell Home was proclaimed by campaigners fighting for its future to be the single most pressing issue causing concern for the people of Roscrea – a claim proven true by merit of the very large crowd who attended a public meeting to debate the facility’s future last week.
All of the Tipperary Deputies were invited to the public meeting, which was organised by the Roscrea Community Development Council (RCDC) and TDs Alan Kelly (Lab), Michael Lowry (Ind), Jackie Cahill (FF) and Seamus Healy (Ind) were united in their belief that Roscrea should, under no circumstances, face a downgrading of services.
All four TDs expressed their understanding that people in Roscrea find it unacceptable that after 2021 all long term service users from the Roscrea area will be faced with travelling to a new 50 bed facility in Nenagh for care – forcing their families to travel to Nenagh to visit them and uprooting the resident of the nursing home from their home-town and community.
“We need a change to the 2021 plans and need to find funds and look for a new site,” Deputy Alan Kelly, who was the first to address the meeting, said and added that the current facility, although providing excellent standards of care, occupies a site Deputy Kelly described as “very tight for development.”
“We want to look towards a long term plan and change the capital spending plan and we want to see a bigger plan to accommodate the greater number of our ageing population. I will be lobbying the HSE for funding for a new long term stay facility in Roscrea, because closing in 2021 is not fair to the people of Roscrea,” Deputy Kelly said.
Deputy Seamus Healy told the meeting that he fully supports the campaign to retain services in Roscrea and said the large attendance at the meeting “sends a loud and clear message” to the HSE and public representatives that the people of Roscrea won’t tolerate the proposed cuts.
“This is a very important first step and every community deserves a facility where they can provide elderly services in their own community where family and friends can visit easily. The people of Roscrea are not looking for anything outlandish and Roscrea deserves it,” Deputy Healy said.
Deputy Jackie Cahill told the meeting he had already asked several parliamentary questions which reveal they have not yet made a final decision.
“They haven’t made a final plan for where the long-term stay beds will be – every town deserves to be able to look after their own people. It’s not acceptable to tell a community the size of Roscrea they can’t have long term stay care – it’s a basic right,” Deputy Cahill said.
“If the present site isn’t suitable then a new site must be found. Time is on our side to win this battle and it’s paramount that the elderly are top of the list when it comes to our capital infrastructure. The HSE need to listen to the people of Roscrea and give the community the investment it deserves,” Deputy Cahill said.
The last TD to address the meeting was Deputy Michael Lowry, who opened his address by highlighting the large attendance at the meeting, which he said shows the town’s community spirit when faced with a problem.
Deputy Lowry said that when the eight Health Boards were running in Ireland the system functioned better, but now the new HSE system has replaced it with “endless bureaucracy and decisions made by managers.”
“The Dean Maxwell is part of the fabric of this town and ending the long term care is not justifiable,” Deputy Lowry said, adding that he had spoken to the Dean Maxwell Action Committee and suggested plans for a new site at the rear of Cré House.
“Roscrea needs a green field site project,” Deputy Lowry said, explaining that HIQA standards dictate a room must be a certain size and that if those rules were adhered to in the current building the number of rooms would be less than 15.
Deputy Lowry said he met with the HSE on the day of the meeting to discuss the new development in St Conlon’s in Nenagh, where it is proposed Roscrea people will be cared for after 2021 and that he feels upsetting the traditional balance, where Roscrea and Nenagh had 25 beds each and Thurles’ Hospital of the Assumption facility has 60, is unwise.
“We need to reverse this decision and get a new unit for Roscrea – there is no reason Roscrea should lose what it’s had for the last 50 years,” Deputy Lowry said concluding his address.
Following the contribution by the four TDs, speakers from the floor were given an opportunity to express their views and the meeting was addressed by Anne Keevey, a former member of staff at the Dean Maxwell, who explained that Roscrea is faced with an ever growing number of aged citizens in its population and that those numbers are set to grow exponentially in the next four decades.
“I worked there for 22 years and the biggest strength of the Dean Maxwell was it always responded to the changing needs of Roscrea, but the building was never developed. Seven years ago we had a meeting and called for a development plan, but seven years later there is still no progress,” Ms Keevey said.
“Nobody has even mentioned dementia yet and there are no services for people with dementia in North Tipperary. Roscrea needs a dementia service urgently,” she added to very loud applause.
Roscrea based County Councillor, Michael Smith (FF), told the meeting the Dean Maxwell is the most emotive issue in the town and said the discrepancies in funding between what Roscrea and neighbouring towns has received in recent years is “shocking.”
“Thurles got €15-million capital investment, St. Conlon’s got €9-million – but what about us in Roscrea? In 2016 the Dean Maxwell got €49,000, in 2017 they got €53,000 and in 2018 they only got €31,000. Roscrea gets thousands compared to the millions for Nenagh and Thurles – what’s wrong with us here in Roscrea?” Cllr Smith said.
“Let the TD’s be warned that they shouldn’t come knocking on doors in Roscrea should anything happen our Dean Maxwell,” Cllr Smith said to rapturous applause.
Local woman Maura Moloney directed her message at the four TDs and said she suffers from vascular dementia and was “looking forward to spending out my days in the Dean Maxwell because that’s where I want to be – a home from home.”
Maria Cummins from Roscrea told the meeting that her mother worked in the Dean Maxwell for 20 years and “loved it all,” before eventually becoming a resident there herself. “She loves it there. She has dementia, but it’s such a pleasure for us to go in there and see her so happy. 2021 is only 20 months away and we haven’t much time, so we need to start fighting now,” she said.
Former Dail Deputy Noel Coonan (FG), who worked on the Dean Maxwell issue for several years and was part of a proposal to create a new facility at Cré House during his time in the Dail, said the meeting was a “very emotional night.”
“I plead with the authorities to enhance and extend the Dean Maxwell. We were told plans to create a new facility in Roscrea were a fait accompli. A community is measured by how well it treats its elderly and Roscrea deserves a new facility,” the May 24 local election hopeful told the meeting.
Closing the debate, RCDC Chairman, John Lupton, thanked the four Tipperary Deputies for attending the meeting and said he feels “a unified approach is needed.”
“We need to empower all the groups in the community and we have some time. In this situation time is hope,” Mr Lupton said.