PATIENTS at the only ward dedicated to the care of HIV sufferers in the country say they are devastated following an announcement that the facility will be closed and transferred to a smaller unit on the Southside.
The HSE revealed last week that it intends to close the Rowan Ward at Cherry Orchard Hospital, which is dedicated to the care of HIV patients, and transfer the service to an existing homeless addiction service at Usher’s Island in Dublin 8.
The Rowan Ward provides respite services for about 300 patients, many of whom are homeless and addicted to drugs, and also caters for three long-stay patients.
The move follows a recent review of the service, which recommended the transfer to the unit at Usher’s Quay that is run by the Dublin Simon Community.
The Rowan Ward currently has 18 beds but the HSE has confirmed that the new unit it intends to run in conjunction with the Dublin Simon Community will have just eight beds.
It is understood that the three long-stay patients currently at the Rowan Ward will be transferred to another ward within Cherry Orchard Hospital.
One of the patients of the Rowan Ward said they fear that the comprehensive range of services currently available to HIV sufferers at Cherry Orchard Hospital, including psychiatric care, will not be available to them at the new unit.
“We are all totally devastated,” she said. “Everybody wants to stay here and nobody wants to go. The level of care here is great. We have been told that we won’t be getting the same service at Usher’s Quay.
“We won’t get to see a psychiatric doctor if we ever get a chance to go into that unit which will only have eight beds,” she said.
Details of the HSE review are contained in a letter, which was written by the Minister with responsibility for Primary Care, Roisin Shortall TD (Lab), in response to concerns raised by Deputy Joan Collins (PBP).
In the letter, Minister Shortall noted that the review identified problems with “the clinical governance of the ward arising from the loss of experienced staff through retirement”.
The review also found that staff at the Usher’s Island complex “will be better positioned to manage clients with addiction associated and related issues”.
Deputy Collins has called on the HSE to reverse its decision to close the ward.
“We don’t know if they are going to receive the same level of care, if they are going to receive psychological supports and if they are going to the same support in terms of medication if they need it,” she said.
A spokesperson for the HSE said that the review, which was conducted in conjunction with stakeholders, found that the existing service could be significantly improved by providing it in the community and in particular connecting it with the 'Pathway to Home' model.
The main aim of the 'Pathway to Home' model is to simplify and speed up the journey for people who are experiencing homelessness into independent living.
“The HSE will continue to fund the care of those transferring from the Rowan Ward and it is committed to the potential of this new and improved way of care planning in an integrated fashion into the future,” the spokesperson added.
A spokesperson for the Dublin Simon Community declined to comment.