Disappointment as minister refuses to engage ‘any further’ on closure of Owenacurra centre

A Cork councillor said he feels “extremely disappointed” for Owenacurra residents and their family members. 
Disappointment as minister refuses to engage ‘any further’ on closure of Owenacurra centre

The Owenacurra Centre in Midleton. In a letter to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health on Friday, Mary Butler said: “I do not propose to engage on this matter any further beyond setting out the facts in my detailed response to the committee on 22 April.”

A CORK county councillor has said he feels “extremely disappointed” for Owenacurra residents and their family members after the minister for mental health said she refuses to engage "any further" on the closure of the East Cork centre.

In a letter to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health on Friday, Mary Butler said: “I do not propose to engage on this matter any further beyond setting out the facts in my detailed response to the committee on 22 April.”

In that letter from April, the minister said it was found through independently commissioned reports that the original plan to refurbish the Owenacurra centre “would effectively mean demolishing the building”.

In the letter, seen by The Echo, she said that two independent reports supported this position.

“As the independent regulator, the Mental Health Commission in its recent inspection reports found that the premises at Owenacurra were not up to the required standard and identified two critical risks (in relation to premises and access to therapeutic services and programmes) and three high risks. The matters raised by the Mental Health Commission meant that it was not appropriate or viable for the centre to continue operating,” she said.

The Joint Committee on Health, however, said that “no independent reports have, in fact, supported the HSE’s position that the Owenacurra building issues are beyond repair”.

“The independent Asbestos Management Survey report of October 2019 from Occupational Hygiene & Safety Services and (OHSS) and the Fire Safety Risk Assessment report of March 2021 by Maurice Johnson & Partners set out works that needed to be undertaken on the Owenacurra Centre premises.

“Neither report indicated that the Owenacurra building was beyond repair or that it could not be brought up to an acceptable standard.

“An undated internal HSE Estates Department report claimed that the building was beyond repair. There is no evidence from this report that a new building survey was carried out in arriving at this conclusion.” 

In response to the Minister’s confirmation that the HSE is currently sourcing a property and has located a detached house that she said “has been identified as suitable in terms of layout size and location in the area”, the Joint Committee said it is “concerning” to hear that the HSE are on the point of purchasing a property in East Cork without considering a renovation of the Owenacurra premises.

Commenting on the latest response from the minister, Green Party councillor Liam Quaide who has campaigned for the reversal of the decision to close Owenacurra since it was announced in June 2021, expressed his disappointment.

"I feel extremely disappointed for Owenacurra residents and family members who have support from everyone except those with the power to reverse this closure,” he told The Echo.

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