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Fermanagh children's hospice faces axe due to lack of nurses


Horizon West

Horizon West

Horizon West

A children's hospice in Northern Ireland is facing closure after struggling to recruit specialist nurses.

Horizon West home in Killadeas, Co Fermanagh, opened in 2012 to provide respite and palliative care to children, and requires nine paediatric nurses to operate.

Most recently, 18 children and families have been using the service.

The BBC reported yesterday that the home had suspended operations, with a long-term decision on the future likely in the new year.

Rosemary Barton, Ulster Unionist MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, urged the Department of Health to intervene.

"It was with profound sadness that I learned of the possible closure of Horizon West," she said.

"This is a facility that gives much-needed nursing support to very ill children and also provides emotional support to the child's parents at a very difficult time for families.

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"I therefore call on the Department of Health to intervene and make it an immediate priority to find suitable nursing staff so that this much-needed facility can remain open."

The Department of Health said yesterday that it had worked closely with the hospice's management to support services.

It added: "This has included over the past two years administering a £1m grant to the hospice from the previous Executive's Delivering Social Change grant scheme, which included support for the development of nursing services.

"The department believes that the hospice's management team has made every effort to recruit paediatric nurses, but due to the shortage of nurses in this specialist healthcare area, this has not proved possible. The department stands ready to discuss further with the hospice the additional support that might be required to provide alternative respite services for families from the western area."

NI Hospice chief executive Heather Weir told the BBC the news was devastating.

"It means families will have to travel from Fermanagh to Newtownabbey for care," she said.

"Some of the children are very unstable clinically and may have seizure activity. Some parents will have to decide whether to make that journey." She described the recruitment difficulty as deeply frustrating.

"The fact is that our calls for increasing paediatric training numbers haven't been heard and we are now in this situation - as is the region for nurses in other sectors, such as domiciliary care - but we have to advocate for these children who need palliative care," she said.

The possible closure follows a warning this week from Northern Ireland's health regulator RQIA of a serious nursing shortage in hospitals and other community services.

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