Pleas have been made to the HSE on behalf of the families of those at the Owenacurra mental health centre, as well as on behalf of people in the wider East Cork area, with concerns raised that some people “will be left absolutely bereft” should it close as planned.
HSE representatives appeared before the Oireachtas sub-committee on mental health yesterday afternoon to face questions on the planned closure of the centre in Midleton, which currently houses 19 residents.
In June, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare took the decision to close the centre, stating that the building is not fit for purpose. The centre is due to close on a phased basis by October 31.
Speaking at the meeting yesterday, Cork East Fine Gael TD David Stanton questioned if the deadline was set in stone.
In his response, Michael Fitzgerald, chief officer for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, said that the HSE is “working still to October 31” to close the centre but appeared to indicate that this date was somewhat flexible.
“If there is a position where a number of residents, if there aren’t placements suitable or if there aren’t placements available, or there’s a placement to come up and that would be suitable for the person and it goes beyond October 31, we certainly will look at that, unquestionably,” he continued.
Mr Stanton said it appeared as if October 31 was an “arbitrary” date and called for a pause on the closure.
Mr Stanton said he attended a public meeting organised by families of Owenacurra Centre residents as well as friends of the centre on Monday in Midleton Park Hotel to discuss their concerns about the planned closure of the centre.
“In my 25 years in politics I’ve never been at a sadder meeting,” he said.
Speaking to Mr Fitzgerald, he said: “You might take that away and with your excellent team there and your excellent team on the ground see what you can do to hasten slowly on this and really and truly listen to the families and the people and read the files and see what’s going on.” Calls to pause the closure of the centre were echoed by a number of other TDs at the meeting yesterday, including Cork East Labour TD Seán Sherlock.
“I am asking that the HSE please put some pause on this and reflect,” he continued.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Fitzgerald reiterated that the HSE’s decision to close the centre was a “difficult” one but that there was “no other option” due to the condition of the building.
“We have reviewed all options for the centre, and every option involves a complete demolition of the existing building rather than a phased refurbishment,” he continued.
He said that the HSE is working with each resident and their families individually to “agree an appropriate alternative placement based on their assessed needs”.
“We understand that the Owenacurra Centre provided a very valuable service to residents in a unique location for many years.
“The HSE however is committed to working closely with the residents to find appropriate alternatives as close to Midleton as possible over the coming period,” he said.
Mr Fitzgerald also revealed that the HSE has “no specific” future plans for the site of the centre but said that it will look at the “healthcare needs of the area to identify any particular needs that would be there which would be well served with some development on that site”.
A mental health day service is also located within the building. Services in the day centre have been affected due to Covid.
Mr Fitzgerald said work is underway to identify an alternative location for this service, as close as possible to the current location and to recommence this service as soon as possible.