The site for the proposed 50-bed unit.

End of year start for new 50-bed nursing unit

The HSE has said it hopes to start work on the new 50-bed Community Nursing Unit in Clonbrusk to replace St Vincent's Care Centre in Athlone towards the end of 2021, it's been revealed - which if it comes to pass represents a big breakthrough for this major project.

The latest news emerged following the most recent Regional Health Forum for Dublin Mid Leinster where Fine Gael Cllr Tom Farrell tabled questions about progress on the Community Nursing Unit (CNU) plans and the South Westmeath Hospice facility on the Clonbrusk site.

When Cllr Farrell asked the HSE to confirm that all the funding is in place for Community Nursing Unit in Clonbrusk and the start date, the reply received said that the tender process for the appointment of the public-private partnership contractor for a national public private partnership project encompassing nine community nursing units is almost concluded and the current programme anticipates a start date on site for Athlone CNU towards the end of 2021.

“Work on the tender for the nine Community Nursing Units in this public-private partnership continues and it is hoped to have an outcome and a contractor (s) appointed as soon as is practicable,” it added.

“At least progress is being made, I know it may be slow but Covid is having an effect,” Cllr Tom Farrell told the Westmeath Independent following the meeting of the Regional Health Forum for Dublin Mid Leinster last week.

He said he is seeking clarification to ensure the budget in place for the CNU.

When Cllr Farrell asked what progress has been made on the agreement between South Westmeath Hospice (SWH) and the HSE in relation to the provision of a hospice unit in Clonbrusk, he was told: “It is planned to convene a meeting between HSE Estates, HSE Older Persons Services & South Westmeath Hospice in the coming weeks to finalise an agreement on the accommodation provision within the new proposed CNU for SWH.

“A draft Heads of Terms has been provided by the South Westmeath Hospice Committee for discussion with the HSE,” the reply added.

Cllr Farrell thanked the South Westmeath Hospice committee for their “outstanding work” in bringing that part of the development to fruition.

St Vincent's Care Centre has been the subject of sustained criticism from HIQA for many years now, and the HSE has always stressed it has intended to replace it with a new modern facility.

Back in mid-2019, the HSE indicated construction was expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021, on the new facility on land between the Clonbrusk Primary Care Centre and the Arcadia Retail Centre, continuing until quarter two in 2022, spanning a 14-16-month timeframe although a subsequent planning application indicated that it would take more than two years to build.

The development is one of nine community nursing units which the HSE is planning throughout the country and is seen as a modern replacement for outdated facilities.

In addition to the 50 residential beds provided, the community nursing unit proposal which garnered planning approval back in 2019 includes a day centre designed to cater for approximately 25 people.

The project spanning in excess of 5,000 square metres is also due to provide modern in-patient accommodation and a variety of services and facilities for its residents, ie. en-suite bedrooms, family overnight rooms, communal day rooms for residents, therapy rooms, hairdressing room, pharmacy dispensary, kitchen/catering facilities, etc, according to the approved planning documents.

Last month there was a call from Cllr Frankie Keena (FF) for a start and finish date for the Clonbrusk development amid concerns that another 'Loughloe House' type situation could develop with the HSE under pressure from HIQA.

A spokesperson for HIQA said in February that regulatory compliance is a requirement for renewal of registration of any nursing home.

It said the regulations have set December 31, 2021 as the date by which a provider must comply with a requirement to ensure that each resident has a minimum of 7.4 square metre floor space, something that can be achieved by reducing the occupancy of rooms prior to the new centre.

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