Families, staff and community representatives gathered at Neptune Stadium on Cork's northside to speak of their fears around the closing of Mount Cara, which has 15 residents, in the middle of the worst pandemic in living memory.
Staff claimed they were told in June that the Redemption Road 25-bed facility, also known as Cara House, was not at risk of closure, only to be told on July 3 that it was to close in late August.
They called on the HSE to step in and save the facility, which was founded more than 30 years ago by Bishop Michael Murphy with the Mercy Sisters and the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, but which is now run by a limited company with charitable status.
The board of management blamed the "new challenges posed by Covid-19, along with the reduction in occupancy".
"Although it complies with Nursing Home Standards, it is not covered by the Fair Deal Scheme for residents. The increased provision of sheltered housing, home care packages and home help supports have also impacted on the demand for Mount Cara services," it said.
Staff claim this was not the message conveyed to them when informed by the board that the facility was closing.
Mary Lynch, whose 100-year-old mother Nora Murphy is a resident, told the Irish Examiner: "She loves it there, it's her home. She has lived there almost six years, it has been a safe community that has the best staff.
"I can't even imagine moving her to a new facility, it is too much for me to bear. It's keeping me awake at night and waking me in the morning. She is so vulnerable, God love her."
Fred Richmond, whose 98-year-old father is also a resident, said: "Your first reaction is shock, which quickly turns to anger and fear. How can it be done at this time, and there is no guarantee for their health where they end up.
Elderly rights activist Paddy O'Brien called the proposed closure of Mount Cara a "human tragedy" that must be reversed.
"Bishop Murphy at the time said there should be a Cara House in every parish. It would be an absolute disgrace, a human tragedy for residents, staff and their families if it was to close," he said.
Families expressed their fears that other residential care facilities either did not have the capacity to take in new people due to Covid-19 restrictions, or that they would be moved far away from their families.
Blackpool Community Centre chairman Bill Dunlea said there had been no indication that the facility was in trouble, and that a recent report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) was very good, as were reports of the facility's finances.
"Nobody seems to have a real reason why it is closing," he added.
Staff member Majella Lynch said they "stood united" with families wanting to keep the facility open.
"Moving our residents in such detrimental times, we believe poses an extremely high risk to their well-being and puts their lives at risk."
The HSE said in a statement: "The independent board of management which has responsibility for Mount Cara has informed us that it intends to wind down the facility.
Our role is to help residents look at their options for future living arrangements.
In particular, we will be working with the residents, the Board of Mount Cara, local authorities and voluntary groups to explore alternative arrangements and services.
Mount Cara have told us that they will continue to keep residents and the staff informed, and that they will also keep in contact with the families and loved ones of residents.
It is not possible for the HSE/CKCH to take over Mount Cara in its entirety as we understand that the building is not suitable for the type and level of residential care which is required into the future."