Minister of State Peter Burke has today called on the HSE to engage with South Westmeath  Hospice Committee immediately, and said that engagement must be meaningful and intended to resolve outstanding matters in order to avoid a legal battle, which he says is in no ones interest.


“One of the very widely acknowledged successes of palliative care in this country has been the genuine partnership approach adopted across statutory and voluntary organisations, who work together to achieve the best service for patients who utilise the service. Without this cooperation it is very much doubtful that so much would have been achieved over the years, and it is this continued approach that will help ensure that every individual, regardless of diagnosis or location, will have access to the type of service that they need.


“Regretfully, this partnership is not in place for residents locally.    Nearly two years since the local HSE tried to close the current unit there is still no agreement as to a way forward.   The efforts by the voluntary committee have meant hours of meetings, briefings, and research.   I commend them for their work .  We have had meeting after meeting, but a path forward has not been agreed on and this time has been largely wasted due to inaction and disagreement.


“The fundamental error, I believe, was the failure of the local HSE to consult with the local Hospice group prior to any plans being made.   The engagement with the South Westmeath Hospice group came too late to influence changes that would be acceptable to the group.   Despite conceding a lot, it appeared an agreement was in sight last October.  The Committee and the public representatives left the meeting understanding we finally had secured consensus, but unfortunately the HSE rowed back on this.


“I now call on the HSE to engage in a meaningful and respectful way with South Westmeath Hospice.   It is not in any party’s interest to enter a legal battle.


“The palliative care approach positions the person and their family at the centre of decision-making. Within current HSE structures Palliative Care is located in the Primary Care Division, and requires operational working arrangements across Divisions, Community Health Organisations (CHO) and Hospital Groups. The benefits of palliative care support beds, particularly in terms of the experience of patients and families, has a proven record of excellence in the South Westmeath Hospice.   It is not acceptable to have this service depleted.

“Ultimately, it will be the patients who suffer as a result of these delays and changes, and this situation is intolerable, especially when you think of the situations and families who find themselves needing these services at the end of their days”.