Independent Cllr Liam Quaide.

Calls for UN alignment on mental health

A Cork County Councillor has asked the HSE to reconsider a large scale capital project investment in a 50 bed continuing care mental health service proposed for St Stephen's Hospital in Glanmire.

Speaking at Monday's meeting of Cork County Council, Independent Cllr Liam Quaide made the argument that the investment should instead be directed towards developing community-based 24 hour staffed residences in line with the Irish Government's A Vision for Change policy and the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

"St Stephen’s is an isolated hospital campus with very poor connectivity to the nearest village," said Cllr Quaide.

"The grounds are spacious and impressive but they will be the site of a new elective hospital in Cork which will also make it a particularly medicalised setting.

"The locating of continuing care and rehabilitation mental health residences on this campus is clearly at odds with the ethos of community living for this client group that was a core tenet of A Vision for Change and the HSE's Model of Care for People with Severe and Enduring Mental Illness and Complex Needs," added Cllr Quaide.

His remarks follow his receipt of a long-awaited response from HSE Mental Health Services to a letter he had sent on 8 May asking if HSE officials would be open to a meeting with him and Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan to discuss the proposed closure of the Owenacurra mental health centre in Midleton.

In his letter in May, Cllr Quaide outlined three major issues he hoped to discuss with HSE officials: the proposal for a new ten bed mental health service in Midleton; staffing levels for the Lauriston estate property which was proposed to house three Owenacurra residents and the HSE's Capital Plan for Cork mental health services.

Cllr Quaide wrote: “I have particular concerns about the proposal to rebuild continuing care facilities on the grounds of St Stephen's Hospital and St Finbarr's Hospital, which is at odds with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

“These locations are hospital campus settings, cut off from communities and this plan would be retrograde in respect of the rights of people with the highest level of dependency to live in community settings, as the Owenacurra Centre residents have done for up to 34 years.”

Having received no response from local or central HSE management by 31 August, Cllr Quaide wrote to Julie O'Neill, Head of Mental Health Services, HSE, requesting a reply to the letter he had sent ten weeks previously. He then followed up with a letter to the office of HSE CEO Bernard Gloster on 6 September.

Last Tuesday, Ms O’Neill responded saying she was aware that her predecessor had met in person with all councillors from East Cork in late 2021 to discuss the matters outlined by Cllr Quaide.

“As we move ahead with our ambitious plans for the future of the mental health services in East Cork, I believe that it would be timely to schedule an update with the same councillors in the near future,” wrote Ms O’Neill.

However, Cllr Quaide said it was disappointing that his request for a meeting on 8 May had received a response only through intervention from the CEO's office.

He wrote: “Neasa and I would like to explore the East Cork and St Stephen's Hospital service provision and capital project aspects in more detail than those formats would allow.

“The previous chief officer and a colleague from HSE Estates met with us in mid-2022 to discuss HSE proposals at that stage. Is there any reason a similar one hour online meeting cannot happen again given the new service plans?”