NED Keane is a well-known name across East Clare, with most people familiar with the great work he has done for Raheen Hospital as chairman of the hospital support group but now, in his 93rd year, he has decided to step down from the position.
The Flagmount man is a founder member of the Raheen Hospital Support Group. He has been chairman for 30 years. In that time he, together with his active committee, has delivered on a day centre, a short-term stay unit, a bus service and specialised respite beds, to name a few projects, for the East Clare facility.
Ned has been named as honorary president of the support group as he hands over the reins as chairman to his friend and co-founder of the organisation, William McLysaght.
His time as chairman will be celebrated this Friday as Ned prepares to celebrate another milestone in his life, that of his 93rd birthday.
Speaking to The Clare Champion this week, Ned recalled the many projects the support group took on board in the 30 years, raising hundreds of thousands of euro towards the rebuilding and modernising of the hospital.
The group’s initial campaign put Raheen hospital firmly on the agenda with the health board and the minister for health after a project to sell £50 tickets received massive support, with householders all over East Clare purchasing a ticket. This initiative alone raised approximately €100,000 for the hospital and led to the development of the current day centre, which supports so many across East Clare.
A very loyal Fianna Fáil man, Ned was never afraid to use his political connections to lobby the ministers of the various administrations to secure funding for the hospital. He tells of one particular meeting with former taoiseach, Brian Cowen, when he was minister for health, at a hotel in Birr and securing funding to develop the Knockatullish facility in Raheen.
This facility had been a nurses’ home more than 30 years ago and it fell idle and later came under the ownership of the council, who at the time wanted to knock it. However, Ned and the support group managed to dissuade them from this action and developed it into a short-stay facility.
However, the hospital has often had difficulties, as over the years there were many threats to close the facility and, more recently, staff shortages and lack of funding has led to beds being closed, which is a source of disappointment to Ned.
“When we started, we had 37 beds in the hospital in total. Now we have 28 but they knocked off five beds so now we’re down to 23. If it goes down below 20 then it’s closed. You couldn’t pay for a hospital with under 20 beds.
“The current Government, who are heading towards closing it now, didn’t tell the people when they were looking for votes that was their intention. It was the older people in this country that made this country, that brought it from what it was and they have no regard for them,” Ned said.
Another disappointment to Ned on his retirement as chairman is the proposed further development of Knockatullish, which in the last six months has been knocked on its head. Funding was raised by the support group to modernise and add en suite facilities at the short-stay facility. However, the unavailability of a carer to man the facility at night has meant this development cannot go ahead as planned.
Speaking about Ned’s contribution to the community in East Clare, Mayor of Clare, Councillor Pat Hayes said, “Ned’s contribution to the hospital is hard to measure really. He has used all his political skills over the years for the betterment of Raheen. His contribution is immense. It is a personal ambition of his to improve Raheen and he has achieved that with great honour.
“His contribution over the 30 years is a great sign of his commitment to community and giving something back very much on a voluntary basis and we need to have people like Ned every day. He has been appointed as honorary president of the group and we hope he will be with us and continue to work with the group and use the wonderful contacts that he has,” he concluded.