‘More displacement’ for Owenacurra mental health centre residents

Cork Kerry Community Healthcare chief officer Michael Fitzgerald committed to providing a new 10-bed rehabilitative residential unit in Midleton town, with 24-hour staffing and a focus on supporting people to return to their homes and communities.
‘More displacement’ for Owenacurra mental health centre residents

The Owenacurra Centre in Midleton.

LOCAL Green Party councillor Liam Quaide has written to the Oireachtas committee on health in relation to the latest proposals by the HSE regarding the demolition of the existing Owenacurra Centre in Midleton.

Mr Quaide said the latest proposal “subjects residents to traumatic upheaval and further prolonged uncertainty after almost a year of being in a suspended state of anxiety following the closure announcement”.

It comes following correspondence from Cork Kerry Community Healthcare chief officer Michael Fitzgerald to Oireachtas members in relation to the closure plans and details on plans for the ongoing modernisation of mental health services in East Cork.

In the correspondence, Mr Fitzgerald committed to providing a new 10-bed rehabilitative residential unit in Midleton town, with 24-hour staffing and a focus on supporting people to return to their homes and communities. Mr Fitzgerald also said that at least one community residence will be provided in Midleton town to which some of the remaining residents in the Owenacurra Centre may move if appropriate for their needs.

He said these services would be supported by a new expert rehabilitation team, led by a consultant, and the day service was now reopened at a new location, with a permanent location being examined.

Cllr Liam Quirke speaking at the recent public meeting in the Midleton Park Hotel on the closure of the Owenacurra Mental Health Centre. Picture: Howard Crowdy
Cllr Liam Quirke speaking at the recent public meeting in the Midleton Park Hotel on the closure of the Owenacurra Mental Health Centre. Picture: Howard Crowdy

In his letter to the committee, Mr Quaide said it appeared there would be a small fraction of the original service available in East Cork for the several years the planning process would take and most existing residents would be dispersed around Cork, with no capacity to take in any new local residents in East Cork.

Speaking to The Echo, Mr Quaide said there was no information on how a 24-hour staffed service would continue to operate for people from East Cork while waiting for the 10-bed facility to be built.

“While a new build sounds very appealing, the practical reality of that for residents is years more of uncertainty, displacement, and potential regression in their mental health and quality of life,” said Mr Quaide.

“You cannot simply rip a service out of an area and seamlessly reassemble it in a few years’ time.

“Several years of waiting for a planning process to come to fruition while residents are displaced to another part of Cork would subject families to a prolonged ordeal of uncertainty. There would also be no further capacity for other people from East Cork who require respite or long-stay placement.

“The long-stay wards in St Stephen’s and St Finbarr’s hospitals are far less fit for purpose in key respects than Owenacurra, yet the HSE isn’t taking the same approach of dispersing the residents in this way.”

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