Pictured are the public meeting are many of the area's local representatives
TIPPERARY’S TD’s have pledged to work together to find a solution to the lack of a long-term care community nursing home after 2021 in Roscrea at a public meeting aimed at debating the future of the Dean Maxwell facility.
In 2021 rules set out by the health watchdog HIQA will prevent any new long-term care residents being admitted to the Dean Maxwell Community Nursing Home in Roscrea, as the building will no longer meet the acceptable standards set out in new criteria due to be enforced in less than three years.
The issue has caused great concern in Roscrea since the HSE announced it will no longer accept new long-term residents in the Dean Maxwell, concerns exacerbated by the construction of a new 50-bed unit at the St. Conlon’s Nursing Home in Nenagh, leading many to believe Roscrea people will be accommodated in Nenagh after the 2021 deadline closes.
A public meeting organised by the local Roscrea Community Development Council (RCDC), the second held in the town this year with the last in March, saw four of the TD’s for County Tipperary again pledge their support to finding a solution for Roscrea’s ability to accommodate its elderly in their hometown - and not allow a future situation to arise where Roscrea families will be forced to travel to visit their relatives in a nursing home outside Roscrea.
However, the most valuable insight into the importance of the Dean Maxwell in Roscrea and the urgency of resolving the issue came from contributions from those in attendance, when the people of Roscrea expressed their concerns.
It was stressed at the meeting that the changes will not affect any current residents of the Dean Maxwell and the potential to move to a new location and build a new nursing home, as well as possibly extending into the car-park of the current facility, were some of the possible solutions discussed at the meeting.
News which broke only hours before last Thursday’s night meeting of a possible site being offered by a businessman with local interests at the site of the former Sean Ross Abbey were also discussed by the sizeable audience in attendance.
Tony Donlan, new owner of the St. Anne’s complex where Sean Ross Abbey is located, was reported to have offered the site as a potential solution - information which was relayed to the public through a press release from Sinn Fein’s general election candidate, Clonmel based Cllr. Martin Browne.
Mr. Donlan, who also part owns the former Antigen industrial complex in Roscrea, nor Cllr. Browne, attended the public meeting and the news was greeted with many questions from the floor and the elected representatives.
Deputy Michael Lowry, who told the meeting he is in discussions about a potential new site in Roscrea that he cannot discuss in public due to confidentiality restraints, said the former Sean Ross facility is too far outside the town for people to walk to and from the town centre and Roscrea’s residential areas. He said the owner approached him with the suggestion of a long-term lease to use the property.
Deputy Lowry said he wants Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to review the situation personally and assured the attendance that he will return with a potential solution when a follow-up meeting is planned in approximately 10 weeks.
Deputy Alan Kelly, Labour’s spokesperson on health, after making contact with Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, during the meeting, revealed he has arranged a meeting with the Minister and all five Tipperary TDs to discuss the issue of the future of community nursing in Roscrea.
“We will express everything that has been said here tonight and the five of us will work together on the issue with the Minister,” Deputy Kelly said.
“Its been 232 days since our last meeting and I hoped we would hear a collective voice from all our TDs,” Cllr. Michael Smith (FF) told the meeting, urging everyone to consider the car-park of the current facility, which is close to the Church and “where it all started,” as a potential site for development.
Fianna Fail General Election candidate Sandra Farrell, who owns the former Patterson’s Nursing Home in Roscrea with her partner, told the meeting she predicts HIQA backing down on imposing the new regulations as too many nursing homes across the country will not meet the criteria by 2021.
“The 2021 deadline will have to be pushed back - they did it in 2016 when they kicked it to touch and put it back to 2021. Now the same thing will have to be done again,” she said.
Tom Deegan from Roscrea told the meeting the feeling in the town is that the current situation is “end game” for the Dean Maxwell facility.
Calling on the politicians to unite and “put their political differences aside for the sake of Roscrea,” Mr. Deegan also pointed out that two large properties normally used for accommodating the clergy are lying mostly vacant with only one resident living there, and suggested that their proximity to the Dean Maxwell could be considered in terms of space for future development.
“We want the politicians to go to Dublin as friends of the Dean Maxwell and not take no for answer - decisions can be changed and it happens all the time,” Mr. Deegan said.
Local political activist Mike Edwards was impassioned when sharing his concerns and told the political representatives directly “the stench of political waffle is astounding.”
“It’s been ten years now on this issue - when will our representatives ever actually achieve anything for Roscrea?” he asked the meeting.
Anne Keevey, founder of the Age Friendly Roscrea group and who was a senior member of staff in the Dean Maxwell Community Nursing Home, told the meeting that “preserving the ethos of care” that the Dean Maxwell Home is known for is imperative.
“Roscrea is traditionally a place of care and our older people need to stay close to home. We are going into very different times ahead and we need to be pragmatic and look at our situation.
“This is an opportunity to do something right for Roscrea with a big and practical plan,” Anne Keevey said.