A mental health facility in Midleton which is due to be closed by the end of October is “too important” to be lost to the community, according to a Government TD.
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’s imminent closure has caused much consternation locally in Midleton, with local Labour TD Sean Sherlock earlier saying the timeframe for closing Owenacurra “is very premature”.
Ahead of the HSE’s appearance before the Oireachtas mental health committee, a “huge turnout” at a community meeting at the Midleton Park Hotel on Monday evening left relatives of the centre’s residents feeling “a bit more hopeful”.
The meeting, attended by 10 local councillors and three TDs — Fine Gael’s David Stanton, Sinn Fein’s Pat Buckley, and James O’Connor of Fianna Fail — heard calls for the closure to be paused “until a proper discussion has been had and a plan for the future is in place”, according to Mr Stanton.
“We don’t want to lose this service, it’s too important,” he said, adding that “we should be building a purpose-built facility” in the area.
However, Mr Stanton conceded that “it won’t be possible to carry out work without vacating the centre”.
The HSE is expected to tell tomorrow’s committee hearing that it has no alternative but to close the centre as the only way to make use of the site is if the existing buildings are demolished given that no level of refurbishment could bring the facility up “to the standards required”.
Michael Fitzgerald, the HSE’s chief officer for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, is expected to tell the meeting 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”.
“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 say.
Mr Fitzgerald said the “immediate priority is the welfare of the 19 residents of the centre”.
One relative of a current resident who attended Monday’s community meeting asked if the HSE “is putting a price on people’s lives” by saying that no funds could be used to rebuild the centre.
They added that “as family members we’re in a position of urgency”.
“This is supposed to be happening in the next number of weeks, but to see so many public representatives, and a huge turnout from the community, we’re a bit more hopeful that this could be reversed,” they said.
A briefing document on the matter prepared for tomorrow’s 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”.