I thank the Minister for being present to reply to this matter. I raise this matter in light of the fact that 30 staff members and 25 residents were informed at separate meetings last Thursday that Loughloe House, a HSE-run nursing home, is to be closed within two months. The nursing home has been situated on this site for 30 years. It is a relatively modern building on the banks of the River Shannon. It is ideally situated. It is all on the one level and, therefore, there is no fire hazard or other such risk.
The bottom line is that the 25 residents were informed at a meeting separate from the staff that Loughloe House is to be closed within two months. However, the Health Information and Quality Authority has informed me that the HSE has not yet responded to the report that it carried out on the nursing home. I find it incredible that the HSE is making a decision to close the nursing home without at least publishing that report or letting public representatives, the families of the people concerned and the staff know how much it would cost to carry out the necessary work to bring the nursing home up to the required standard.
The news of the closure of Loughloe House has left its residents, some of whom have been living there for 20 years, in shock. They are to be relocated to private nursing homes and this has caused widespread upset and distress. Residents, especially those who are relatively fit and mobile, have told me that they are extremely comfortable in their surroundings and are familiar with the other residents and staff. These people are their family and this is their home. They are familiar with the smell and the texture of the place. If I had been living in a centre for 20 years, I would not want to move. A move to alternative accommodation is completely alien to them. How will it affect their health and well-being?
The content of the HIQA report should at least be made public before a decision is made on the future of the facility, as should the number of inspections to which the facility has been subjected and the opportunities Loughloe House has been given to rectify any inadequacies. If this facility is as bad as has been alluded to by the HSE, how was this allowed to happen? That is the bottom line. The manager of the HSE is in charge of it. How has this been allowed to happen if the facility is as bad as has been stated? What steps have been taken by the HSE to resource the centre?
There is genuine fear about the effect this change will have on the residents, some of whom are in their 90s and some of whom have no families to speak on their behalf. I am concerned that the shock of having to move to unfamiliar surroundings will cause them undue stress, adversely affect their health and may even cause some of them to die. That is a very dramatic statement but that is my concern.
The possibility that a care centre has not been staffed, adequately funded and allowed to fall into a state of disrepair to facilitate its closure must not be tolerated. The announcement by the Minister, Deputy Harney, in Athlone on Sunday that the closure of Loughloe House will free up staff for another facility was inconsiderate and dismissive of the residents' feelings and their plight.
I hope the Minister will not give me a pat answer from the HSE as I will not be able to cope with it because I am emotionally involved with these people. They are my friends and they are old people. I ask that this decision be stalled until at least the contents of the HIQA report have been made known and the issues of the necessary funding and cost involved to bring the facility up to the required standard can be dealt with.