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The €22m state-of-art hospice lying empty

THIS is the state-of-the-art hospice funded by volunteers but which stands empty.

Most of the €22m needed to construct the St Francis Hospice in Blanchardstown was provided by private fundraisers.

Volunteers have been tirelessly pressing ahead to collect enough money for a dignified place for terminally ill patients.

But already they face huge bills every month, simply to pay off the interest rate on the loan.

The hospice is under construction and is expected to open in July. But the doors cannot open until the new Government agrees to allocate funds for staffing.

Organisers and the HSE are hopeful that negotiations will progress and the hospice can open in the summer.

A total of €5m was raised in Dublin 15 and a further €5m through its sister organisation, St Francis Hospice in Raheny.

But an additional €10m was borrowed from a financial institution. Former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan secured €2m for the fit-out of the hospital before he left office.

Fr Dan Joe O'Mahony, from Blanchardstown Centre Oratory, is behind the fundraising for the hospice. He told the Herald that they were positive that the hospice would open on time.

"The hospice is built, it is being fitted out at the moment," he said. "We hope that it will be ready by July.

"We're waiting until July for the HSE to provide staffing. But we know it is coming."

A representative for the HSE said that it is currently in negotiations with St Francis Hospice regarding the opening of the new day service in Blanchardstown.

"The HSE and St Francis Hospice management have met to formulate a service agreement which will include the identification of funding for the opening of the Blanchardstown day service, initially on a part weekly basis but eventually to full time operation," they said.

"It is expected that these negotiations will conclude in the next two weeks."

Fr O'Mahony said that despite the recession people have been particularly generous.

"Last weekend we raised €124,000 in a car raffle," he said.

Ethel McKenna, CEO of St Francis Hospice, said that the restrictions in funding were understandable.

"The funding is in place and we're hoping to commence patient services for two days a week from July," Ms McKenna said.

"The HSE are not in a position in the current economic climate but they have been very supportive of it.

"If capital funding became available we would very much welcome it," she added. "It has been planned for a number of years, in consultation and with the support of the HSE."

clairemurphy@herald.ie