Dáil debates

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla — Topical Issue Debate

Mental Health Services

9:20 am

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I convey my gratitude to the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, for attending in her capacity as the Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for mental health and older people.

An important issue in my constituency and municipal district has been prominent in the national news in recent weeks and days. It concerns the provision of mental health residential accommodation in the Owenacurra centre, which is due to be closed down by the HSE. Discussions are ongoing on the future of the day-care services being provided at the facility. In recent days, I attended a public meeting in my constituency. It was extremely well attended by members of the community, not alone from the Midleton area but from across the constituency of Cork East, particularly its southern side. The majority of the families of service users are from the towns of Cobh, Carrigtwohill, Midleton and Youghal.

I would like to convey some of the points that were made to me from the floor at that meeting, which was also attended by colleagues from Cork County Council and my fellow Deputies in the constituency, Deputies Stanton and Buckley. Many valid points were made by the families. Above all else, they would all like to see the retention, if possible, of some type of residential mental health facility in the Midleton area or at least the east Cork region. We all accept, as the Minister of State is well aware, that the building at the Owenacurra centre is in poor condition. This has been clearly shown in the reports done by the Mental Health Commission. I would like to see some thought to be given to the potential for either a full refurbishment, the demolition of the existing facility and reconstruction of a new one or finding a way to incorporate a new residential facility so that the 19 full-time residents using the Owenacurra centre will have a home in their community. It is worth noting that for the long-term residents, the Owenacurra centre is their home and Midleton is their community. It will be difficult for many of them to adjust to their new environments, some of which will be entirely different as we know. That concerns me.

I know these decisions are being made by the HSE but I am asking the Minister of State for her help and for engagement and dialogue on this issue. I hope she will work with me and my constituency colleagues to find a better solution to what is being proposed. Most important, I ask that the HSE allow us time to reflect on the decision it is making and for a full review of what it has attempted to do in closing down the Owenacurra facility.

It was crystal clear from the people in the room in the Midleton Park Hotel, where the public meeting took place, that the Owenacurra centre has been a wonderful resource to the service users who have made great progress. They are extremely happy where they are and their families are also happy that they are able to use the facility. The staff in the centre have done fantastic work. I have been lucky enough to know some of the people who have used the Owenacurra centre through the years and I know many people who work in it. It is clear to me, as a public representative and Deputy for the constituency of Cork East, that the work they have done has been wonderful and that we should try to keep the centre if we can.


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