Members of the Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore management team with Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, when he visited Midland health services last week, (from left) Louisa Burke, director of Nursing MRHT, Claire Conway, Shirley Keyes, Orlagh Claffey, chief operations officer, Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, Minister Donnelly, and Catriona McDonald, general manager MRHT.

Building plans for midlands hospice to be donated to HSE

Architect plans for a new midlands hospice are to be donated to the HSE in a bid to speed up the delivery of the project.

The chair of Offaly Hospice, Professor Humphrey O’Connor, confirmed last week that finalised plans commissioned by the local hospice movement for a 16-bed unit are to be made available to the HSE in the coming weeks.

On a visit to Tullamore last week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly met representatives from the hospice groups operating in the midlands, and stated that the aim is to have the new midlands hospice, which will have 20 beds, operational by the end of 2025.

The minister was explicit in his view that the long-awaited project should proceed to planning early next year.

It is to be co-located on a site provided by the HSE on the grounds of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore, on the Arden Road, and will provide a range of specialist in-patient and day services.

The project is part of a wider palliative care strategy for the midlands which will also incorporate community palliative care and adult and paediatric services.

Prof O’Connor pointed out that the midlands hospice project moved from a private to a public procurement project after the government donated €20 million to the cost, which he described as being "a significant milestone".

He added that the plans prepared for Offaly Hospice for a 16-bed unit were "deemed feasible at a meeting with the HSE in October 2021" and he has since been informed that an extra four beds to take the proposed hospice unit up to 20 beds could be accommodated on the existing site.

"We can do no more than donate our plans to the HSE," he said, adding that if the project were to "go back to square one again" as part of the public procurement process, a completion date of 2025 "would be difficult to attain".

He said that all the hospice groups operating in the midlands "are at one" and share the vision of Minister Donnelly and the Department of Health on the urgent need for the establishment of level 3 specialist hospice services in the region.

Prof O’Connor said "a great deal of progress" has been made since the group decided to establish the Hospice Building Fund in May 2019, and having met Minister Donnelly on his visit to Tullamore last week, Prof O’Connor said he felt the minister had "a deep personal interest in palliative care" and was aware of "what we have in the midlands, and what we need" with regard to specialist palliative care services.

Pat Lalor, chair of Hooves4Hospice, the fundraising drive spearheaded by Tullamore Lions Club, said it is "business as usual" for them.

Mr Lalor, who also attended last week’s meeting with Minister Donnelly in Tullamore, said the generosity of the public, and the farming community in particular, to their fundraising efforts has been "nothing short of phenomenal".

The Hooves4Hospice campaign has more than 750 animals on its database, and many farmers who have already reared one animal and donated the proceeds from its sale to the fundraising drive have decided to rear a second animal.

Mr Lalor said he is happy to take Minister Donnelly "at his word" that the midlands hospice will be completed by 2025 and said the Hooves4Hospice campaign will continue for as long as it is needed.