Devastation has been expressed by the main figure behind the West Clare Mini- Marathon, following news that a palliative care room in Regina House, Kilrush, has been closed by the HSE.
Regina House nursing home has been operational for 42 years on the Cooraclare Road.
Two palliative care rooms were opened in February 2004 and have benefited from in excess of €180,000 in funding from mini-marathon proceeds. The event is held every January, always finishing in Kilkee.
In total, the mini-marathon has raised €1.8m towards the provision of cancer care in West Clare, since the first run was held in 1998.
Committee chairman Willie McGrath told The Clare Champion that he learned of the palliative care room closure when he enquired, on behalf of a cancer patient, if it was available.
“I made contact with Regina House director of nursing, Anne McNamara, a couple of weeks ago, to see if we could get a particular person in there. I was told that, unfortunately, due to a shortage of nursing, they had to close one of the rooms. I was devastated,” the Kilkee man declared.
“I wasn’t told whether it was long-term or not, only that they didn’t have a sufficient amount of staff to keep the show going. Since then, the family who were looking for the room for a family member, have been seeking an explanation. We were always of the opinion that these two rooms were there for the people of West Clare. Now we find that when it’s needed, it’s not available.
“I just want to know from the director of nursing how long is the room closed for and when is it opening up again? That’s the big question,” he stressed.
When The Clare Champion contacted Ms McNamara on Wednesday, she said all media enquiries should be directed to the HSE press office in Limerick.
Willie McGrath pointed out the level of cancer patient care in Regina House is exemplary.
“This is something that I want to make very, very clear. I’ve had a great understanding with Regina House but we’ve never interfered. When people made contact with me, I would make contact on their behalf with Anne McNamara, who was very helpful and anybody who went in there had nothing but good to say about it. It was top-class but now we have just one palliative care room there and we’re very concerned as regards what is happening,” Mr McGrath reiterated.
Prior to the West Clare Mini Marathon Committee committing to financially supporting the two palliative care rooms in Regina House, the nursing home did not have that facility.
“The rooms were made available but the problem was where the money for the equipment was going to come from? We supported them big time in that. We’re talking about 10 years at this stage.
“We’re now finding that families are contacting the cancer centre but there is a room closed down there and we want to know the reason why,” Mr McGrath said.
Kilrush county councillor Ian Lynch contacted Anne McNamara this week, seeking an explanation. He described the closure of the palliative care room as “extremely disappointing and concerning”.
“This service could not be funded by the HSE and the community of West Clare then stepped up, through the mini-marathon cancer centre in Kilkee, which has helped to fund this much-need service. It is disappointing to find that when this facility could be filled 20 times over, that half the unit is now closed.
“The closure of this unit is not the fault of the mini marathon committee and this must be made clear. This is a HSE issue. People are very disappointed that community members are being turned away in a time of need and this bed lays vacant. There is a feeling of anger and upset in West Clare,” Councillor Lynch added.
He insists the HSE must fully explain why the palliative care room has shut down. “The HSE must explain how this closure has come about and provide the people of West Clare with assurances that contingency plans are in place to ensure that this will not happen again in the future,” he suggested.
By Peter O’Connell