Minister told to honour pledge to keep Roscommon home open

Naughten to be pressured by families over home for adults with mental health issues

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten: confirmed he would raise the issue this week with the Taoiseach. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten: confirmed he would raise the issue this week with the Taoiseach. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The HSE has been accused of betraying the residents of a facility for adults with mental health issues in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, by families who say they will fight plans to close the unit.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten has confirmed he will attend a public meeting in the town on Monday night as relatives of those living in the Rosalie Unit in Castlerea reacted angrily to a HSE suggestion that their care needs would be better served elsewhere.

Mr Naughten, who lobbied Minister for Health Simon Harris on the issue last week, will be put under pressure by local people following the HSE move.

Liam Walsh, whose mother, Breda (83), has been living in the Rosalie Unit since 2009, said Mr Naughten had told a public meeting last February that the unit would not close while he was part of the government.

It is his home and he is frightened now. He has diabetes and had a kidney transplant three years ago. He has had a hard life and this is not fair

“He is an honourable man and I do not think he will allow it close. If it does, he has to resign, and that has national implications,” said Mr Walsh.

Mr Naughten lost the Fine Gael whip after voting against the government decision to close the emergency department of Roscommon hospital in 2011.

Shifting needs

Last week Tony Canavan, HSE chief in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, told Shannonside radio that he had been saying for months that it would be possible to provide better care for residents in a different setting. He said the needs of patients had shifted as they aged, from being of a psychiatric nature to being more of a medical nature.

MrWalsh pointed out that all the residents had Alzheimer’s, dementia or other mental health issues, and said the specialist care provided at the Rosalie Unit had been crucial. “I have no doubt that if my mother had been left sitting in a corner in a nursing home, she would have long since died,” he said.

Local woman Anita Flanagan, whose brother Dan Connaughton (70) is also a resident, said he, like other residents, was living in fear.

“Dan lived in a hostel for nine years and has been in the Rosalie Unit for four years. It is his home and he is frightened now. He has diabetes and had a kidney transplant three years ago. He has had a hard life and this is not fair.”

Closure by stealth

Mr Walsh pointed out that there were 33 residents in the unit when his mother moved in and said following a decision to stop all new admissions in September 2016, the number had dropped to 12. “They have been trying to close it by stealth,” he insisted.

We believe they want this building for something else, but we are prepared to keep fighting

He said there had been speculation that some residents would move to Áras Mháthair Phóil, a local nursing home, but while this was an excellent unit, staff there were not geared up to cater for those with mental health problems.

“My mother is 100 per cent dependent now. She cannot walk, talk or feed herself. I feel the HSE has betrayed her and if I don’t fight for her now, what would I say to her if I meet her in the next life?”

Ms Flanagan said the families would not give up. “We believe they want this building for something else, but we are prepared to keep fighting,” she said.

Mr Naughten confirmed he would raise the issue this week with the Taoiseach and said he would continue to press Mr Harris and Minister of State Jim Daly in relation to the unit.

No comment was provided by the HSE at the time of going to press.