'It is lifesaving': Family begs HSE to reconsider closure of Cork residential centre 

'It is lifesaving': Family begs HSE to reconsider closure of Cork residential centre 

In recent weeks, the HSE announced the closure of the Owenacurra Centre in Midleton on October 31, saying that the building is “not fit for purpose”.

THE HSE is being urged to reconsider plans for the closure of a residential mental health centre in East Cork, which a family member of one resident described as being a “lifesaving” facility.

In recent weeks, the HSE announced the closure of the Owenacurra Centre in Midleton on October 31, saying that the building is “not fit for purpose”.

It is currently working with residents on “an appropriate alternative placement”, it said.

However, the planned phased closure of the residential mental health centre has been met with shock and disappointment.

A family member of one resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, paid tribute to the ‘fantastic’ care her family member receives in Owenacurra Centre.

'It is lifesaving'

“It is a great centre. It is lifesaving. If he wasn’t in the centre he would come off his medication. He gets homeless very quickly and falls out with people. He probably wouldn’t be alive now. He has flourished since he has been there,” she said.

The family member said the current situation is very ‘distressing’ for both the residents and family members alike.

“The residents are very happy there. There is a lovely feel to the place. The staff are absolutely lovely. They really care about them.

“It is very distressing for the residents and family members. It would be a big wrench for them to be moved,” she added.

The family member was critical of the communication on the issue.

“There has been zero communication apart from the residents getting a letter at the end of June which was then forwarded to some of the relatives….

“We were assured that we would be involved in any decision made to rehouse them. In the eight weeks since, there has been no communication with us,” she said, adding “we want it to stay open.”

Calls to reverse decision

Local councillor and clinical psychologist Liam Quaide has called on the HSE to reverse its decision.

The Green Party councillor said in a letter to HSE management that the loss of the facility for east Cork would be ‘immeasurable’ and would impact on those with the highest level of need.

Mr Quaide said he didn’t see any justification for permanently removing this service: “It is difficult to fathom how no amount of funding could address the structural/layout issues identified as problematic in the premises,” he said adding that “there should be a commitment to a major renovation or a rebuild.”

Not fit for purpose

A spokesperson for the HSE told The Echo that, while there had been plans initially to refurbish the facility, this is not now possible.

“In June, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare took the difficult decision to close the Owenacurra Centre in Midleton as the building is not fit for purpose.

“We informed residents, staff and the regulator that the centre will close on a phased basis by October 31.

“Since we informed staff and residents in June, we have been consulting with them on an ongoing basis and this consultation is continuing.”

The spokesperson added: “This was a difficult decision, but the building is simply not fit for purpose. We initially planned to refurbish the building, but as work progressed on those plans it became clear that they would not be enough to meet the needs of current and future residents.

“In June, our own building experts [in HSE Estates] advised that they had discovered that the building is in a very poor condition, with major defects.

“They told us that even if refurbishment took place, they could not guarantee that the refurbished building would meet current building requirements. It was made clear to us that no amount of expenditure could bring the building to an acceptable standard.

“We were left with no choice but to close the centre on a gradual and phased basis. It was this advice from our own experts which led us to take the difficult but necessary decision to close the centre.”

The spokesperson said “everyone’s priority now is the welfare of the 19 residents” adding “we are working with each resident to agree with them on an appropriate alternative placement taking into account their preference and individual needs.

“This work includes consulting with each resident and involving their families and loved ones as appropriate so that we can agree on a plan that best meets their requirements. Residents will be moved on a phased basis, and only after detailed consultation and discussion.”

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