'Unacceptable' closure of East Cork mental health centre discussed at Oireachtas Committee meeting

Mr O’Connor said: “How anyone can accept that, or can make sense of that and try and defend it, which has been so strenuously done by the HSE today, is just not acceptable. It just shows an entire disregard for the needs of the area."
'Unacceptable' closure of East Cork mental health centre discussed at Oireachtas Committee meeting

Michael Fitzgerald, Chief Officer Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, said at the meeting in his opening statement there are not currently 15 people residing at the centre. The Owenacurra Centre in Midleton.

A Cork TD has described the closure of East Cork’s only residential mental health facility as “unacceptable” in an Oireachtas committee meeting held to discuss the planned closure of Owenacurra Centre on Tuesday.

At the meeting, Fianna Fáil TD James O’Connor said he was “not at all satisfied by almost anything" he had heard at the meeting. 

Mr O’Connor said the HSE was going to “strip” his area and constituency of its existing residential mental health care services.

Outlining that the HSE was removing all residential beds for people with mental illness in East Cork, while north Cork has three centres, one in Mallow, Fermoy and Kanturk, Mr O’Connor said: “How anyone can accept that, or can make sense of that and try and defend it, which has been so strenuously done by the HSE today, is just not acceptable. It just shows an entire disregard for the needs of the area."

Mr O’Connor also said East Cork is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in Ireland and said the facility was much needed.

“We need to retain a residential mental health care facility that is 24-hour staffed simply on the population growth alone and you are taking it all away.” 

Green Party Councillor Liam Quaide said the Oireachtas Health Committee meeting on the Owenacurra Centre highlighted that the arguments to close the facility did not add up.

“The meeting laid bare a fundamentally flawed service ideology that means people in East Cork with high dependency needs will be placed in ward-based settings, outside their communities, into the future.  

"The meeting was about current Owenacurra residents but also the many people whose journey through services will not be known, who require these placements, but are being referred to unknown facilities."

Mr Quaide said Owenacurra Centre was neglected for some time before the decision to close.

“Owenacurra Centre - a community-based residence - has been neglected and is being closed down. What is happening here is a dereliction of a duty of care for our most vulnerable service-users dressed up as concern for their safety."

Michael Fitzgerald, Chief Officer Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, said at the Oireachtas committee meeting in his opening statement there are currently 15 people residing at the centre.

At the meeting, Mr Fitzgerald reiterated the HSE’s stance on the “difficult decision taken in June” to begin the process of ceasing services at Owenacurra Centre.

“The background of that decision was that it became clear following an assessment of the information available that the current building environment and layout did not allow for the needs of a modern residential centre.

“The centre had also been criticised by the regulator on a number of occasions.

“Initially, the plan was to refurbish the centre but as we moved to the more detailed planning stage serious concerns emerged that any level of such refurbishment would not bring the building to the standard required.” 

An HSE spokesperson previously said while the residential centre will close, the HSE has stated they wish to continue using the site for supported living for people with mental health difficulties.

“The existing building on the site is still in place, and it is still home to residents. Our priority, for now, is to find the best possible alternative placements for residents. Our aim for the site is that it is used for community-based supported-living, with supports in place on-site to allow people with mental health difficulties to live in the community.

“We should point out that East Cork currently benefits from a seven-day service from our community-based home-based treatment team. Wherever possible, it is our aim to assist anyone with mental health difficulties to live at home, in their communities.  

“Supported housing with seven-day support available will facilitate this in the Midleton area. This model has been very successful elsewhere, and we will progress discussions with the local authority and other bodies as soon as possible.”

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