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Tuesday 28 March 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Locals in Carrick-on-Suir marching as part of the campaign to save the hospital after it was closed in 2020.
# Carrick-on-Suir
'It gave peace and dignity': Campaigners press their case to reopen Tipperary hospice
The HSE closed St Brigid’s District Hospital in 2020.

CAMPAIGNERS SEEKING THE reopening of their local hospital have detailed how their efforts to discover the reasoning for its closure were thwarted and frustrated at every step of the way.

St Brigid’s District Hospital in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary was closed during the pandemic over what the HSE claimed were safety concerns, which have been disputed ever since by locals.

They appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Public Petitions this week, which resolved to summon representatives of the HSE and HIQA to come before it to be questioned over the decision to close the hospital in 2020.

The hospital serves a catchment area of people from three counties, spread across south Tipperary, south Kilkenny and north Waterford.

Screenshot (109) Susan Mullins of the St Brigid's Hospital Campaign

Without it, the Save St Brigid’s Hospital Action Group has said unwell patients in need of palliative or respite care either must go to another public facility a 45-minute drive away, or they need to apply for respite and find a space in a private nursing home.

Another option for respite or convalescent care cited by the HSE when contacted by The Journal is in Tipperary Town is an hour-long drive away.

“Consultation with individuals and families as regards convalescent and respite care may include arrangements that can be made with private nursing homes,” the HSE said. 

A door to door canvass taking activists from Carrick to homes at the foot of the Comeragh Mountains in Co Waterford, and back across the River Suir into south Kilkenny, saw them gather almost 11,000 signatures urging the hospital to reopen.

IMG_4022 Hundreds took to the streets of Carrick-on-Suir following St Brigid's closure.

That petition was handed into the Petitions Committee at Leinister House where the campaign addressed TDs and senators on Thursday.

Susan Mullins, who spoke before the committee, gave an emotional address, saying that St Brigid’s was a “haven for
families”, with many in the area having had a loved one stay there over the decades.

Its closure, which saw the movement of almost 30 staff and the stripping of many items, brought “distress and anguish” to local people, Mullins said.

She highlighted how the hospital was comforting for her own family and others, with each palliative care unit fitted with a private room for the patient, a bathroom and kitchen/sitting room.

On the ground floor, a walled garden and patio area for three hospice rooms was a “haven of peace offering dignity and privacy” for patients receiving end-of-life care.


The hospital was also a short stay designated centre for older people, for convalescence after an illness and respite care.

Campaign member Barry Torpey outlined to the committee the efforts to track down the HSE’s report into St Brigid’s leading to its decision.

He said a Freedom of Information request was made which “was not complied with by the agency”, which led to a ruling by the Information Commissioner allowing the release of the information.

Torpey said he has queried issues around hallway size with the HSE to no avail, following concerns about the width of the corridors in the hospital.

The campaigners said this “reluctance” from the HSE to discuss its decision making showed its flaws.

Torpey, a civil engineer who has family members who worked in the hospital, said claims were put forward that the hospital’s hallways were too narrow and the bedrooms too small, with the risk of disease prevention heightened as a result.

They also pointed to the findings of reports by HIQA which were positive about a number of aspects of the hospital, while finding it issues in terms of the size and space available to patients in their rooms.

‘Narrow hallways’ claim

Torpey said efforts to get the HSE to clarify what size the hallways were supposed to be were unsuccessful, and that several further questions relating to the structural concerns were not responded to when the HSE was contacted.

The HSE told the The Journal that “internal conversion works on both floors” of the building have been undertaken.

Torpey said it is accepted that a “slightly slimmed down version” of St Brigid’s may be necessary for the hospital’s old functions to be reinstated.

The address received fulsome support of the committee members.

Addressing the campaigners, Cork East TD Pat Buckley said the HSE’s actions around St Brigid’s mirrored its closure of the Owencurra mental health facility in Midleton, where there has been strong resistance to the decision.

“There is a trend, when you lose these services they’re gone,” the Sinn Féin TD said, adding that the campaigners had been treated in a “disgusting” manner by the health service. 

Independent senator Gerard Croughwell said he believed the HSE had attempted to remove equipment from the hospital “as quickly as possible to make it extremely difficult to reverse” the closure, while Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins said they should collaborate with the Oireacthas Health Committee for a long-term strategy for the building. 

HSE response

When contacted, a spokesperson for the HSE said clinical services in a range of disciplines are now provided in the adjacent primary care centre. 

These include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and  Older Persons services coordination. 

It said St. Brigid’s is now being used as an administrative base for chronic disease services in South Tipperary, and that diabetes clinical staff based in St. Brigid’s are providing outreach clinics.

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