The Programme for a Partnership Government sets out the Government’s commitment to “encourage the development of a hospice in the Midlands”.
This proposed and long overdue development is in line with national policy which states that each HSE region should have its own hospice as the hub of specialist palliative care service provision. I am aware that there have been many efforts over the years to realise this project on the basis of consensus which regrettably have not borne fruit. The development of a hospice in the Midlands in addition to other planned hospices in Mayo, Waterford, Wicklow and the North East will ensure equity in the provision of specialist palliative care countrywide over the next five years.
The HSE is planning for a 16-20 bedded hospice in the Midlands on the campus of the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore. This location is viewed as best serving the interests of the 300,000 population of the Midlands. The decision to develop a single hospice rather than two smaller units is based on the most efficient use of public money. The absence of a hospice and associated day services and specialist supports in the Midlands results in higher numbers of palliative care patients dying in the region’s three acute hospitals when they could be more appropriately cared for in a hospice setting.
It is usual for local fundraising groups to fund the capital cost of new hospice builds. However, despite ongoing efforts by the HSE and the Irish Hospice Foundation over a protracted period it has not been possible to reach consensus on this matter and only one of the five local hospice groups has given any commitment towards capital funding for the proposed hospice. The HSE will provide the revenue funding once the hospice is built.
To advance the Midlands hospice project, the HSE is reviewing planning work to date and will develop plans for submission to the HSE National Director for Primary Care and the HSE Capital Estates Steering Group in September. Key deliverables include a revised schedule of accommodation, a revised brief, indicative capital costings, the precise location of the hospice on the Tullamore Hospital campus, staffing requirements and indicative costings, and a communication and engagement plan. The HSE will continue to engage with local hospice groups as this preparatory work progresses.