Oireachtas health committee urges minister to reverse Owenacurra center closure plan

The evidence presented by the HSE to justify the closure of the Owenacurra mental health facility has not been “convincing”, the Oireachtas Health Committee said.

In a letter to Minister of State Mary Butler, seen by the Irish ExaminerTDs and senators urged her to reverse the decision to close the center “as a matter of urgency”.

“This decision follows a public hearing into this matter in December 2021, as well as a site visit to Owenacurra Center and St Stephen’s Hospital in Glanmire on March 7, 2022,” committee chair Sean wrote. Crowe TD.

“The Committee is of the view that this closure should not take place as it contravenes the Sharing the Vision policy which seeks to locate mental health services within communities.”

Plans to close the Midleton facility, which provides residential care for people with significant mental health issues, were announced last June.

The Cork/Kerry HSE said it was not possible to renovate the single-storey 1970s building or bring it up to standard without completely demolishing it first.

However, residents, their families, mental health experts and politicians have campaigned for the center to remain open, saying they recognize the excellence of the service and its contribution to the East Cork community.

Questions have also been raised about the alternative for these residents and the money spent by the HSE on other facilities such as a proposed center in Carrigaline.

No building permit for Carrigaline installation

The HSE has spent £500,000 so far upgrading Glenwood House in Carrigaline, for which it does not yet have planning permission.

By comparison, maintenance costs at Owenacurra over the past 10 years have been less than half a million euros, and proposed renovation plans that were eventually scrapped have been valued at €145,000.

Owenacurra’s closure will leave the entirety of East Cork, a catchment area of ​​94,000 people, without a dedicated 24-hour mental health services centre.

Nine of Owenacurra’s remaining residents, many of whom have lived there for decades, have been offered replacement places at the Carrigaline facility, 30km away, when it finally opens.

The letter to Minister Butler said: “The HSE presented evidence to the committee of the justification for the closure which centered on concerns that the refurbishment could not bring the building up to the required standards.

“However, the committee is of the view that the evidence presented by the HSE is not convincing and is concerned about the ad hoc nature of decision-making in relation to the capital infrastructure of mental health settings. ”

Marchers taking part in the public demonstration to protest the planned closure of the Owenacurra Mental Health facility in Midleton in October. Photo: David Keane

Mr Crowe added that the committee wanted a response to the letter “as a matter of urgency”.

Green Party committee member and TD Neasa Hourigan said it was recognized that Owenacurra’s closure “is not in line with the national provision of mental health care”.

“Additionally to this, after reviewing the capital investment information we have received and considering the construction reports on the facility, I do not accept that the only option is to close the center,” a- she declared.

“Decision-making regarding areas and facilities in Cork HSE is obviously questionable as the same standards for building facilities appear to be implemented entirely subjectively – it is a management strategy which is having a terrible impact and detrimental to the people who have made Owenacurra their home for many years.

The Ministry of Health has been contacted for a response.

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