A NATIONAL survey has highlighted the current closure of 51 beds in St Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny and 20 beds in Kilcreene Orthopaedic Hospital.
The 71 cited locally were among the 1,672 beds closed in hospitals across the state, according to figures released last week by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
The figures were published at a time when a record number of patients were on trolleys in hospitals around Ireland last week, although St Luke's typically has a low number of patients on trolleys – and often none at all – according to daily figures from the INMO. Yesterday (Tuesday) there were three patients on trolleys in St Luke's, according to the union's data. Kilcreene Hospital is not typically included in the 'Trolley Watch Figures'.
The closures sparked protests in Kilkenny last summer, at which time the Health Service Executive said "bed and theatre closures (would) take place at St Luke's General Hospital for Carlow/Kilkenny during July and August". A HSE spokesman said at the time that Kilcreene Hospital would "continue the closure of 20 beds for the remainder of this year (2010)".
Asked this week whether and for how long the beds would remain closed, a spokesman replied:
"In 2010, St Luke's General Hospital for Carlow/Kilkenny delivered the full range of services as outlined in the 2010 Service Plan. This included a target reduction in inpatient discharges, in parallel with the increase in day case activity in line with national strategy.
"As part of this Plan, the hospital internally reorganised bed capacity. This featured an amalgamation of gynae and surgical inpatient beds to one unit, which enabled a reduction of 14 beds. The successful shift to day case activity in the hospital ensured the full quantum of gynae and surgical services continued to be available to patients and clients.
"As in previous years and outlined in the annual Service Plans, St Luke's GH implemented seasonal service and bed closures to ensure delivery of the service plan within budget. The closures were completed during peak leave periods to manage staff leave in a co-ordinated way.
"A Business Plan to implement the HSE's 2011 Service Plan is currently being finalised."