Patients to be transferred without prior consultation

TO most of the people who live there, it’s not a hospital — it’s home.

But, in recent days the 42 long-stay patients at Heatherfield Hospital in north Co Cork were all told that they were being transferred permanently to St Stephen’s Hospital in Glanmire on the outskirts of Cork city and that Heatherfield is to be closed permanently.

The move will begin in under two weeks time and is expected to be completed in eight to 12 weeks.

The HSE says the facility falls short of residential care standards and that it needs substantial investment to meet fire and safety regulations but local Labour TD Sean Sherlock branded it “disgraceful” that residents weren’t consulted in advance about such an imminent move.

Mental Health Ireland has said that such a “move can be traumatic for patients” but it “hopes that the move is carried out in the most sensitive way. We hope that families and relatives are supportive”.

Announcing the decision, assistant national director, Pat Healy said the patients will be moved to two wards at St Stephen’s, Sarsfield Court. Mr Healy said families are supportive of the move as it will be easier to visit their hospitalised relatives. They also say the relocation will result in cost savings as more efficient rosters can be put in place.

“Only two of the existing 42 residents are actually from the north Cork area with the remaining 40 residents from the south Lee area. The two residents from north Cork will be relocated to a residential facility in the North Cork area. Families of the patients are being briefed on the plans and will be kept up-to-date on all developments in this regard. These wards will provide a far more appropriate and pleasant environment for the residents and has the added bonus of being closer to their families,” he said.

But Labour deputy, Sean Sherlock said it was “a unilateral move” inflicted upon residents who don’t have a voice.

“This move shows a blatant lack of respect for both patients and workers who have been loyal to Heatherside. There are approximately 100 staff residing locally who work at Heatherside. None of them were consulted or given any prior notice of this decision. I am extremely concerned at the impact this upheaval will have on the patients, many of whom, are extremely vulnerable. The Mental Health Act needs to be examined to ensure that patients rights are not impinged upon,” said Deputy Sherlock.

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