Dáil debates

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Adjournment Debate

Care of the Elderly.

6:00 pm

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Adjournment. The lack of provision of funding for day care centres for elderly people is a typical example of the Government being penny wise and pound foolish. For a relatively small outlay of funds, the lives of retired people could be considerably enhanced, especially those living in isolated, rural areas.

The particular case I wish to refer to is the Stella Maris Centre in Lisdoonvarna. Currently this centre is a two-day care centre and has been since it was launched a year ago by the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. The people in the area have been fighting an uphill battle since to have a third day added to the schedule with a view to extending it to five days over time. A five-day care centre was the commitment given by the Minister last year when she visited Lisdoonvarna, but naturally nobody was so rude as to ask her by when that would happen. When will funding be provided to extend the centre to a three, four or five-day facility?

It is not that the local communities involved have not put their weight behind the project. More than €40,000 was raised through voluntary funds which paid for a bus. I have been informed that the organisers now seek a larger replacement bus, such has been the success of the scheme. The downside of that success, unfortunately, is that there is a waiting list for the facility. People from the nearby villages of Kilinaboy, New Quay, Corofin and Carron need not apply because there is not enough room for them at the centre.

Earlier this week I attended the opening of the Michael Cusack visitor centre in Carron. It is sad that on the one hand we can applaud and cherish the achievements of people such as Michael Cusack, but on the other hand ignore the living people who paid taxes through the lean years of the economy, who worked hard all their lives and made sacrifices for their children and parents, and who now find themselves neglected by the State.

Provision of funding for day care centres is a form of preventative medicine. It provides a physical and mental outlet for elderly people who, too often, find themselves home alone with little social contact. People in such situations often get ill or decline rapidly when they have so much inactivity forced upon them. That in turn puts an immense strain on our acute hospital services and our nursing homes which have been so much in the news recently. I cannot think of a better way for the Department of Health and Children to spend its budget than to rapidly expand its provision for day care centres throughout the country and explore means of opening new ones.

In my constituency of Clare, there are just six day-care centres, Lisdoonvarna, Kilmaley, Clarecastle, Raheen, Ennistymon and Kilrush and all need to be expanded. In addition, considerable efforts have been made to establish a centre in Sixmilebridge and again the local communities there have been very generous in providing voluntary funding to go towards such a centre. I take this opportunity to impress upon the Department the urgent need to back this project.

I had the pleasure this week of visiting the Lisdoonvarna centre. The Stella Maris centre currently has 60 people on its books, from Lisdoonvarna, Doolin, Ballyvaughan, and Fanore. An average of approximately 25 people attend the centre on each of the days it is open. The centre is run by four hardworking staff, including the bus driver. During those days it is open all day. Its main role is as a social outlet, where people meet up with old friends and make new ones. There are activities such as painting, crafts and quizzes. Physical exercise is an important part of the programme and the centre is part of Go for Life national programme for elderly people. This is a commendable programme which is run in partnership with HSE health promotion officers and which saves thousands if not millions on physiotherapy services and the like.

The centre also has a hairdressing service, bingo and singing and dancing sessions. The programme is a full one and has untold positive effects on the lives of participants. It also saves the HSE, the Department and ultimately the taxpayer millions of euro every year.

The people involved in the centre have appealed for an extension of at least one extra day per week for the centre for the coming year. I plead with the Minister of State for Transport who represents the Minister this evening to urge her to provide the funding because the Stella Maris centre is of such value to north Clare.

Photo of Pat GallagherPat Gallagher (Minister of State, Department of Transport; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

I am pleased to have the opportunity to reply on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I thank Deputy Breen for raising the issue as it provides an opportunity to outline to the House the current position with regard to the Stella Maris day care centre in Lisdoonvarna. The Health Service Executive in Clare provides an extensive range of day care services for clients. Currently, seven day centres are provided throughout the county with an average daily attendance of 240. Many of those day centres, those at Clarecastle, Kilmaley, Miltown Malbay and Stella Maris in Lisdoonvarna, are provided in partnership with voluntary organisations.

The day centre service at Regina House in Kilrush, Raheen community hospital and Ennistymon community hospital is provided directly by the Health Service Executive. A day hospital is provided at St. Joseph's Hospital in Ennis. These services enable older persons to be maintained at home and attend day services on a regular basis, depending on their needs and wishes.

The day centre at Stella Maris, Lisdoonvarna, which has been provided at the former Stella Maris nursing home, was recently opened by the Minister, Deputy Harney. This centre, which provides services two days per week, has been upgraded and refurbished at a cost of €1.88 million by the Health Service Executive. This funding was provided by the Health Service Executive, the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, which contributed CLÁR funding. Although the centre provides services on two days per week, the Health Service Executive in Clare hopes to extend these services to a full five-day service as funding becomes available. As the Deputy may be aware, €9 million was allocated to day and respite care in budget 2006.

Responsibility for the provision of health and personal social services now rests with the Health Service Executive. The HSE has advised that a proposal for additional funding for increased opening hours for the Stella Maris elderly day care centre is being considered in the context of new service developments for 2007, and a decision will be made as soon as possible.