Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) has highlighted that despite National Policy being in place since 2001, the Midlands remains the last area of Ireland without plans for a specialist inpatient unit for those requiring hospice care. IHF has sought a meeting with the Minister for Health to clarify the timeframe for the investment in palliative care for the Midlands region (Laois, Offaly, Longford, Westmeath, Louth and Meath), and in particular when the issue of the absence of an inpatient hospice will be addressed.
IHF, through its Nurses for Night Care service and working through acute hospitals and residential care settings, sees first hand the impact of underfunded resources and the inequalities presented across the country. Recent figures released from the HSE, show that the funding allocated for specialist palliative care varies widely across the country from over €30 per person in the Midwest to less than €11 per person in the Midlands.
Sharon Foley, CEO of Irish Hospice Foundation says:
“We know there has been enduring inequity across the country in terms of the level and type of specialist palliative care services available at end of life. This was exacerbated even further in 2020 by the allocation of additional funding to all other hospices around the country. The funding they received will be invested in improving their valuable work they do but without a service to invest in, in the Midlands the inequity continues”.
Sharon outlines clearly:
“Not having an inpatient unit in the Midlands means that patients are denied access to the full range of specialist palliative care services which are available to those facing end of life in the rest of the country. It also reduces capacity for other services provided in acute hospitals, where the government, under Sláintecare, want to ensure the majority of services are kept for acute care. We urgently request that the Minister for Health commits to funding the capital cost of an inpatient unit so that its building can be expediated and that progress can continue”.
Although voluntary groups traditionally have funded the cost of capital build costs for hospices, IHF feel at this point it is unfair to expect local hospice groups to be required to fund a building cost of approximately €13m.