THE campaign to build a €10 million Midlands Hospice has been kick-started with the hand-over of a whopping €500,000 by Offaly Hospice to the project.
Formally transferring the money at the annual meeting of Offaly Hospice on Monday night, Chairman, Professor Humphrey O’Connor appealed for help from as many groups as possible to make the project a reality.
Now it is hoped that the four other hospice groups in the Midlands will back the plan to develop the regional hospice in the grounds of Tullamore hospital.
A HSE report on palliative care services in the Midlands concluded the optimal site for a Specialist Hospice Unit was in the grounds of the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore.
The campaign has been backed by the Health Service Executive’s Primary Care Manager, Joe Ruane who told the meeting that the handover of funds was a “significant moment’.
“Without moments like tonight this [the regional hospice] will not happen,” he added.
Acknowledging the work of Offaly Hospice, Mr Ruane advised: “We need to replace the county jersey with a regional jersey.”
Veteran hospice campaigner Edward Delahunt, suggested a separate Midlands Hospice committee be established to overcome problems with “parochialism”.
Professor O’Connor said none of the hospice groups in the other Midlands counties of Laois, Westmeath and Longford “object to the idea”.
“They all want it. It’s a matter of whether they are prepared to fund something that is being built in the grounds of the hospital in Tullamore,” said the Professor in response to a question from Peggy Guinan.
“The best interests of patients must surely be the most important thing,” he stressed.
Edward Delahunt said “we have to get over this county boundary thing and I’m not being disrespectful to anyone.”
He added Tullamore had been designated as the preferred location and “we had no hand, act or part in it.”
Retired CEO of the Midland Health Board, Denis Doherty said “the most significant thing that has happened in palliative care in this region is that Offaly Hospice is to give €500,000” to the development of a regional hospice.
He claimed the Midlands is the “most deprived area in Ireland as far as hospice care is concerned” and said the absence of a regional hospice was a scandal.
The HSE’s Joe Ruane said “in an ideal world the Government should fund this development.”
But, he added, “the model is that these units have been funded locally and the staff is paid by the HSE.”
He said there were five hospice groups in the four Midland counties and he hoped Monday night’s hand-over of funds would be a start to the development.
Mr Ruane pointed to the forthcoming local and European elections and said “any support from politicians will be welcome.”
He said he had mentioned the project to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris within the past month.
Professor O’Connor said the need for a specialist palliative care service in the region was “staring us in the face.”
“One person has been egging us on and that is Edward Delahunt,” he added.
The Offaly Hospice Chairman said the group had to look at every possible way of fund-raising including using social media and philanthropy from companies and individuals.
“It will require backing by groups who are interested,” he added and said he would love to have the other four hospice groups in the Midlands involved in the campaign.
He continued: “We cannot tell anyone what to do, they are independent foundations.”