Government must act immediately to provide subsidised accommodation for healthcare workers – says Fingal Cllr

by Rose Barrett
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Cllr Paul Mulville (SD for Rush-Lusk LEA) has called on the government to act immediately and provide subsidised accommodation for Dublin’s frontline nursing and healthcare staff.

Last week, Phil Ní Sheaghdha of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation called for the urgent need for subsidised accommodation for INMO health workers, claiming affordability and availability is proving impossible to many single healthcare workers seeking to rent in city areas close to hospitals.

It is also proving challenging for junior doctors who may have to move around to different hospitals during the early stages of their career.

“The INMO says staff members are priced out of the housing market in Dublin and the areas around other major hospitals,” said Cllr Mulville. “It also advised Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien at a meeting last month that subsidised accommodation must be included in plans for new hospitals if proposals to significantly increase the number of hospital beds are to be realistic.”

By the same token, many schools reported in recent months that they were unable to fill advertised posts as successful applicants could not source affordable accommodation close to the school location.

Cllr Mulville (above) noted that the Psychiatric Nurses Association had already called for subsidised accommodation to be urgently provided on the grounds of St Ita’s, Portrane, to help alleviate the staffing shortage facing the new National Forensic Mental Health Services hospital, and also the existing intellectual disability service there.

“The recently approved Fingal County Development Plan includes robust planning policy to encourage the renovation and re-use of the vacant historical buildings at St Ita’s,” said Cllr Mulville.

“There has been some modest but important progress to date, with some of the hospital buildings converted into office and administration use, and the vacant cottages along Portrane Avenue being done up for council housing.

“However, the government must bring forward plans now to provide subsidised accommodation for nursing and hospital staff at St Ita’s, and to immediately set about renovating and refurbishing some of the vacant historical St Ita’s buildings for this use. There is more than ample space available, and it only lacks political will to do it.”

“We hear from government Ministers that refurbishing such buildings would ‘take too long’. This is a poor excuse, as if we don’t start now, it will never happen!”

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing responded: “Government is committed to increasing the supply of homes or all types. The Minister for Housing recently met with representatives of the INMO in relation to the supply of housing. He discussed with the INMO representatives government plans to significantly increase the supply of social, affordable purchase, cost rental and private homes for rent and sale.

“Under Housing for All more than €4bn is being spent annually on the provision of housing. The plan puts us on a pathway to delivering at least 300,000 new homes between now and 2030. These are homes to be delivered nationwide, including in in areas where hospitals, new and existing, are located.

“A new Unit has been established within the Department to drive the delivery of affordable housing at scale across a number of large-scale schemes, particularly in Dublin where demand is most acute. Examples of strategically important sites include Emmet Road, Oscar Traynor Road and O’Deavney Gardens.”

The statement continued: “Affordability is something the Department takes very seriously, we understand the need to significantly scale it up which will in turn help all people and professions, including key workers such as healthcare staff.”

With regards to St Ita’s site in Portrane – “In June 2022, the Department approved funding for the refurbishment of 12 vacant cottages on Portrane Avenue, located on St Ita’s Campus in Portrane. The Minister has always believed in refurbishing vacant and older buildings, that’s why he has put in place funding of €150m to activate vacant properties and derelict sites.”

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