A HOMELESS services provider has signalled its intention to deliver a newly refurbished unit to facilitate respite care for HIV patients who were recently transferred from a ward at a Southside hospital to a temporary unit.
In July, the HSE revealed that it intended to close the Rowan Ward at Cherry Orchard Hospital – the only unit in the country dedicated to the care of HIV patients - in an attempt to save money.
Local HSE management decided to continue funding the treatment of the HIV patients’ respite care but it handed over responsibility for the operation of the service to homeless charity Dublin Simon after the Rowan Ward closed on September 3.
When the ward closed some HIV patients resisted their transfer to a separate homeless addiction unit run by the Dublin Simon Community at Ushers Island in Dublin 8.
The patients said they didn’t believe that sufficient beds, facilities or nursing staff would be in place at the new temporary facility.
However, Southside People understands that most of the HIV patients have since transferred to the ward, which has capacity for eight beds.
Dublin South Central TD Joan Collins (PBP) told Southside People that on Friday, September 14, she met with the HSE, the Dublin Simon Community and the Dublin AIDS Alliance about the transfer of the patients to the temporary unit.
She said she requested the meeting to voice concerns expressed to her by patients who did not believe that the temporary unit at Ushers Island would sufficiently meet their diverse needs.
“We were shown all facilities currently available,” she added.
“In my opinion they are not up to standard and there are issues regarding visiting facilities and hours in Simon.”
However, Deputy Collins noted that during the meeting representatives of Dublin Simon informed her that the charity would refurbish the existing temporary unit to cater for the patients at Ushers Island, which they intend to open in December this year.
“We look forward to the completion of this project and hope that it will afford the dignity and treatment that all of us want for those living with HIV,” she added.
Linda McDonagh, from Crumlin, who is a former patient at the Rowan Ward, reacted to the news with cautious optimism.
“If Simon were to provide the same services at the Rowan Ward I would definitely welcome this move,” she said.
“But whether they deliver on this remains to be seen because we have been let down so many times. This time last year the HSE told us that the [Rowan] ward would remain open but now you see it has closed.”
Majella Darcy, head of specialist services with the Dublin Simon Community, confirmed that the charity intends to have a newly refurbished and dedicated respite unit in place by December.
“The project will include a clinic, up to 10 respite beds, a garden and a counselling service,” she said.
“The facility should be a major enhancement to the care, treatment and quality of life for those who are regularly in need of respite.”