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Older people ‘isolated’ as bus to day centre stops


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Older people ‘isolated’ as  bus to day centre stops Older people ‘isolated’ as  bus to day centre stops

Concerns have been raised that failure to provide transport to a day care service for older people will add to isolation.

This comes at the same time as it has been highlighted that some residents in community nursing units are having to pay for private ambulances just to attend their hospital appointments.

These shortcomings in the HSE’s transport services were raised at a meeting of the Regional Health Forum where Cllr John Connolly (FF) said that bus transport to St Francis Day Centre in Newcastle had been withdrawn.

As a result, some older people had been forced to cut back their attendance or stop using the service altogether, he said.

Chief Officer for Community Healthcare West, John Fitzmaurice, confirmed that the transport service had been withdrawn from St Francis’ in 2023.

In a written response, he said this was as a result of “the retirement of the existing driver, that coincided with the bus coming to its end of life. Since then, families have been organising their own transport to the service”.

Cllr Connolly said he didn’t believe this was “sufficient”, adding that he was concerned that “the number of people attending will decrease”.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Fitzmaurice said in addition to the driver retiring, an assessment had been carried out on the value of the service.

“We evaluate all our operations to ensure we are getting value for money,” he said, adding that if there were particular issues, he could discuss them with Cllr Connolly.

The Fianna Fáil councillor said he feared older people who enjoyed the day care service previously may no longer be able to access it, while others may be prevented from joining it.

“I was contacted by a family about it. Their mother had been engaging with the service and could attend two days a week. When the transport service ceased, they had to take time off work to bring her so they had to cut it back to one day.

“These services are very important. This family told me their mother enjoyed it and in general, they help with isolation – they give people activities outside the family,” said Cllr Connolly.

While Mr Fitzmaurice indicated that there was ‘no evidence’ that numbers had reduced as a result of transport being withdrawn, Cllr Connolly said there were undoubtedly others affected by the change.

Meanwhile, his party colleague, South Conamara Councillor Dáithí Ó Cualáin (FF), said that some patients in nursing homes in Galway were having to pay hundreds of euro for private ambulance transfers to UHG in order to attend scheduled appointments.

“I was contacted recently by a family with someone in a community nursing unit in Conamara. They told me a family member had an appointment in the hospital.

“There was no alternative; they had to pay €700 for a private ambulance . . . it wasn’t even discussed. They were told you either take him by private ambulance or he doesn’t go,” said Cllr Ó Cualáin, expressing concern that this was setting a precedent for how other people would be treated.

Mr Fitzmaurice said it was standard practice across the health care region that a family member will transport the resident to their appointment.

“Where this is not an option, then the community nursing unit will arrange the necessary transport with a staff member accompanying the resident to the appointment,” he said.

Cllr Ó Cualáin said this was not what happened in the case he was raising and was given a commitment that Mr Fitzmaurice would discuss the circumstances with him.

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