The Joint Committee on Health has written to the HSE Board with concerns about the alternative placements being offered to Owenacurra Centre residents in Midleton.
There has been a long-running campaign against the planned closure of the centre in Midleton, which offers residential care for people with significant mental health challenges. A decision to close the centre was made in June of last year.
Following previous correspondence from the HSE Board dated July 12, which the Health Committee had received after it concluded its business prior to the Oireachtas summer recess, the Committee has responded with a number of follow-up concerns.
Concerns about alternative placements were highlighted in the letter with the Committee saying it is “of serious concern” that the HSE has proceeded with the closure in the intervening months prior to there being an opportunity for further exchange with the HSE Board since July and that residents are being offered placements in ward-based settings including St Finbarr’s Hospital and St Stephen’s Hospital.
The Committee said that these ward-based settings with significantly lower Mental Health Commission compliance ratings over consecutive years than the Owenacurra Centre represent significant downgrades in key respects for Owenacurra residents such as shared as opposed to single rooms, hospital-based as opposed to community-integrated facilities and poor connection with a local/urban centre.
Some Owenacurra Centre residents are also being offered placements in temporary accommodation in Garnish House - a facility that the HSE plans to not continue renting beyond the first quarter of 2023.
The Committee said that this involves moving “highly vulnerable people from one situation of prolonged uncertainty to another”.
A significant number of Owenacurra Centre residents have also been transferred to nursing homes.
“It is gravely concerning that such transfers are now being offered by the HSE to Owenacurra Centre residents given the concerns raised at several Oireachtas Committee meetings about such alternatives and following a period of over a year in which there appeared to be no service plan in place for these residents,” the letter read.
The Committee also highlighted how the Owenacurra Centre has been an immensely valued service by residents and families for 34 years and that it has been regarded as “life-saving and transformative” and has assisted many people from East Cork to integrate into community life who would otherwise have been living in institutional settings or in precarious situations.
In its letter to the HSE Board, the Committee once again asked the Board to “intervene and reverse” the decision to close the centre.