The HSE has committed to building a new 10 bed facility on the site of the Owenacurra mental health facility in Midleton.

New facility to be built on Owenacurra centre site

Michael Olney

There has been a major breakthrough in the long-running saga surrounding the closure of a county Cork mental health facility, however, “serious ethical questions” still remain, a county councillor has said.

The HSE has confirmed it will build a new 10 bed, multi-million euro facility on the site of the existing Owenacurra Mental Health Centre in Midleton.

The move follows on from the purchase a three-bedroom property in Midleton earlier this year for the housing of three of the remaining six residents of the Owenacurra centre.

The HSE said it is now in the process of acquiring a further property to house the remaining three residents.

The Owenacurra centre, which was controversially deemed unfit for purpose by the HSE in 2021, has been at the centre of a lengthy and hard-fought campaign, fronted by local politicians and residents’ family members, to ensure the best possible outcome for its residents, some of whom had called the facility home for 20 years.

Since the decision was made, most of the centre’s residents have been forced to relocate to facilities elsewhere in the county, a source of considerable stress and anxiety to residents and their families.

Commenting on the breakthrough, local Independent Cllr Liam Quaide welcomed the good news but said he still has serious concerns regarding decisions made by the HSE.

“This multi-million euro investment would not have come about without the relentless pressure of our campaign,” said Cllr Quaide. “However, serious ethical questions remain about the transfer of some residents outside East Cork.

“I'm also concerned that the HSE is pushing ahead with a 50 bed long-stay facility on the isolated grounds of St Stephen’s Hospital, a clear misdirection of funding and a contravention of A Vision for Change,” the East Cork councillor added. A Vision for Change is the national policy that sets out the direction for mental health services in Ireland.

In a letter to Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan, who has been heavily involved in the campaign to save the Owenacurra centre, HSE CEO Bernard Gloster said he had visited the facility and spoken with residents and their families and was aware of the severe anxiety caused by the decision to close the centre.

“Moving residents from their homes will always cause an unwelcome degree of upheaval and distress,” wrote Mr Gloster.

He continued: “Since the decision to close Owenacurra was taken, care and attention has been given to making the transition as easy as possible for each individual.

“I am assured that the process for sourcing new accommodation for the residents of Owenacurra was informed by assessments of the needs and preferences of the residents.”

Regarding St Stephen’s Hospital in Glanmire, Mr Gloster said plans are going ahead for the construction of five residential households, each comprising of ten single bed and en-suite rooms.

The plans also include support rooms such as day rooms, sun rooms, and dining rooms, together with ancillary infrastructure facilities like treatment rooms, and internal garden open spaces.