The HSE says that it has had no alternative but to shut a Co Cork mental health facility as the only way to make use of the site is if the existing buildings were demolished.
Representatives from the executive’s mental health services division are set to tell an Oireachtas committee tomorrow that “any level of refurbishment” could not bring the Owenacurra Centre in Midleton “to the standards required”.
Michael Fitzgerald, the HSE’s chief officer for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare is expected to tell the sub-committee on mental health that “it was only when the fabric of the building was assessed for this work that we established that the only way to refurbish the building was to knock it”.
The Owenacurra Centre, which is situated at the centre of the town, currently hosts 19 patients, some of whom have lived there for many years. The centre is due to close at the end of next month, a decision which has caused much consternation locally in Midleton.
A community meeting on the matter is due to be held at the Midleton Park Hotel this evening.
“We have reviewed all options for the centre, and every option involves a complete demolition of the existing building rather than a phased refurbishment,” Mr Fitzgerald is expected to tell the Oireachtas sub-committee on Tuesday afternoon.
“This was not our original plan for the valuable service at the Owenacurra Centre, and while it was a difficult decision, there was no other option open to us,” he will say, adding that the “immediate priority is the welfare of the 19 residents of the centre”.
A briefing document on the matter prepared for the committee states that due to the “major defects” identified at the centre “there is no refurbishment option which will allow residents to remain on site”.
Local Labour TD Sean Sherlock said that the timeframe for closing Owenacurra “is very premature”.
“I do believe that the idea that repair and upgrading of the building should not be taken off the table as an option,” he said.
It emerged last month that the Owenacurra centre had received a favourable report from the Mental Health Commission just months before the HSE decided to shut it down.
An annual inspection in February at the centre praised it as being “in a good state of repair”. Inspectors found five non-compliances with regulations and 21 areas where the centre was compliant.