It is still unknown when the Owenacurra Center in Midleton will close.

Owenacurra centre is still in limbo

“It's unfair, it's cruel, it shows a callousness and an attitude of hiding people away and getting rid of the problem.”

The words of Mary Hurley, the sister of a resident of the Owenacurra Centre in Midleton who faces being uprooted from her home of over 25 years. Speaking to the Cork Independent, Ms Hurley said the HSE was “very poor” in a meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee on Tuesday which saw senior members endure some tough questioning from TDs.

“We want them to stop the closure and permit the families to appoint an independent structural engineer to review the building again. There have been lots of questions that have not been addressed by the HSE to reassure us that every stone has been turned over,” Ms Hurley said.

In June, the HSE suddenly announced plans to close the centre which is the only long-term mental health facility in East Cork.

The HSE’s decision followed an assessment on the building which found it to be in poor condition and unable to provide the level of care needed in a modern residential centre.

The initial plan was to refurbish the 1970s-era building but as plans progressed, the HSE said it became apparent that a refurbishment of the site was not an option.

Ms Hurley says her sister now faces being moved to a facility in Carrigaline, a transition that will be extremely distressing for her and the whole family.

She said: “If I was asked to turn around and leave everything I know and everything that gives me security, I would struggle with that, and I don’t have any mental health difficulties.”

She continued: “I think it’s a really callous way of dealing with people who are the most vulnerable part of the mental health group, if you will.”

Ms Hurley also pointed out that the alternative facility is an institutional style setting with dorm room lodgings which is similar to the institution her sister was in before she moved to the Owenacurra Centre.

“The idea of that being the model presented as a vision for the future it is deeply distressing to the likes of our family with a relative that has come from an institutional setting which was really traumatic, and to think it’s okay that they go back to that after 25 years. We are meant to have left all that behind,” she said.

During the meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee, East Cork TD Pat Buckley said it was absolutely unacceptable that East Cork would be left without services once the centre closes. The Sinn Féin TD asked the Chief Officer of the Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Michael Fitzgerald if the HSE had invested in a premises in Midleton to which Mr Fitzgerald said it had not.

Mr Fitzgerald said a premises had however been acquired in Carrigaline and is currently being refurbished.

Asked why the premises was in Carrigaline and not Midleton, Mr Fitzgerald did not respond within the time given.

Deputy Buckley said: “My biggest fear here is that when the services are gone, they’re gone. I put in nine parliamentary questions and I got the replies yesterday. Out of the nine, all of which were different from each other, have six identical replies, and the other three were identical to each other too, so in other words you’re copy and pasting answers.”

Mr Fitzgerald replied: “I hear your concern with regards to continuing care and the reality is that we do need development in the greater Cork area for good centres and good appropriate beds so that we can deliver that. We have to take the broader Cork area into account and we have a community model to provide to the broader community.”