AN independent councillor has expressed his opposition to any plans for Cork’s mental health services that would entail longer journeys for patients or isolate them from the community.
Councillor Liam Quaide has said he has “particular concerns” about aspects of a strategic capital plan for Cork’s adult mental health services.
Deputy Neasa Hourigan received correspondence from the HSE regarding the proposals, following a parliamentary question in the Dáil.
Last Tuesday, Ms Hourigan asked how the plans, which have not been signed off on, could be in accordance with either the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities or the HSE’s own Model of Care.
Proposals include building a 50-bed facility at St Stephen’s Campus for Cork, along with a new purpose-built 20-bed unit to replace St Catherine’s Unit in Cork City.
Provision would be made for a new St Michael’s Unit: A purpose-built, 70-bed mental health acute admission unit.
Other suggestions include a purpose-built 36-bed Regional Psychiatric Intensive Care unit and Rehabilitation Unit in Cork City to incorporate the current Carraig Mór and Unit 3 St Stephen’s provision.
“In summary, the plan intends to replace 239 beds that do not meet regulatory compliance standards with 194 Mental Health Commission (MHC) approved beds in newly built units,” wrote Kevin Morrison, head of Cork Kerry Community Healthcare (CKCH) Mental Health Services.
“There are no plans to relocate mental health services from St Stephen’s Hospital to St Michael’s,” responded a CKCH spokesperson to The Echo. The correspondence “makes it clear that the plans listed were still in development, and not yet signed off”.
St Stephen’s Hospital is the site for acute mental health admissions from the Kanturk, Mallow, Newmarket, Mitchelstown, Fermoy, and Charleville areas.
Mr Quaide has worked as a psychologist in the North Cork mental health services.
“The HSE’s plan is to relocate that acute service provision from St Stephen’s to the Mercy Hospital.
"This will impose extra travel and inconvenience on those North Cork families at a very difficult time.
"I know when this relocation was previously mooted around 2014, it was strongly opposed by ground level clinicians.
“St Stephen’s Hospital, Glanmire, can be a sanctuary for people experiencing a mental health crisis who require short-term acute admission. The hospital is located in tranquil, spacious grounds.
“However, St Stephen’s is not a suitable location for investment in long-stay facilities.
“Government policy such as A Vision for Change emphasised the need to facilitate people with high dependency needs to integrate in community settings. And yet, the HSE are planning to invest heavily over the coming years in new long-stay facilities in St Stephen’s and St Finbarr’s Hospitals, which are cut off from communities in medical campus locations.
“What we actually need is a community residence for this client group of approximately ten placements each in the main East Cork towns of Cobh, Youghal and Midleton, just as we already have in Fermoy, Mallow, and Kanturk.
“The HSE are committing to a new 10-bed residence in Midleton in response to the Owenacurra Centre campaign, but I’m concerned about recent briefings that suggest they do not yet even have a site identified, nor capital funding secured for this project.
“I’ve written to Cork HSE management to seek a meeting on the Owenacurra Centre closure but also their plan to replace long-stay facilities on the grounds of St Stephen’s and St Finbarr’s Hospitals. If this plan goes ahead it will mean that people with the highest level of mental health need in the Cork area will be living in hospital campus settings long-term, cut off from communities.
“This plan is retrograde and at odds both with the HSE’s own Model of Care for people with severe and enduring mental illness and with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
“The UNCRPD enshrines the right of people with severe and enduring mental illness to live in their community. Investing in long-stay facilities in St Stephen’s and St Finbarr’s Hospitals would be a major misdirection of public money that I very much hope it can be reconsidered by the HSE Board,” concluded Mr Quaide.
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