Disabled woman ‘terrified’ about return to homeless hostel

‘I could see people stoned, laughing,’ says Denise McCoy (52) who is paralysed on one side

Homeless woman Denise McCoy, who has had a stroke and is partially paralysed, is ‘terrified’ of being discharged from hospital. Photograph:  Dara Mac Dónaill

Homeless woman Denise McCoy, who has had a stroke and is partially paralysed, is ‘terrified’ of being discharged from hospital. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


A Dublin woman, who had a stroke 16 months ago and is paralysed down one side, is “terrified” of being discharged from hospital into a homeless hostel, again.

Denise McCoy (52), originally from Skerries, Co Dublin, became ill in October 2015 while on holiday in Spain. She had an emergency craniotomy – where part of the skull is removed to reduce pressure on the brain, remained in intensive care and was flown back to Dublin in January 2016.

She was admitted to St Vincent’s hospital where she stayed until July.

“Then I stayed with my mother but she is 86 and couldn’t really look after me.” Denise is in a wheelchair, cannot shower herself or cut up her food, and needs help going to the bathroom. She now weighs about six stone and appears very frail.


“I got pneumonia after a few weeks and ended up back in [St James’s] hospital. I have been getting a bit of physio, but not enough. I am on a waiting list for the National Rehab Hospital in Dún Laoghaire. ”

As she has been in hospital so long she has lost her rented flat in Rathmines.

“Just before Christmas they told me I didn’t need acute care anymore and they wanted me to go to a nursing home. But I was also told if I went to a nursing home I could be there forever, because the council would say I’m housed. I’d be signing my life away.

“They said my other option was a homeless hostel. I didn’t really want to go to a hostel. I didn’t think I’d be able to manage. But last Monday [January 30th] they came and told me a taxi had been called. I was going to a hostel. I was really depressed but I had to go.”

‘It was frightening’

She was taken to an emergency one-night-only hostel, operated by Depaul, where she was given a room.

“There were signs up about ‘no drugs allowed’, but I could see people stoned, they were laughing. I got no sleep. It was frightening. If I wanted to go to the bathroom I had to call someone to bring me.”

She had to leave at 9.30am and was told not to return until the evening. She had difficulty in her wheelchair over cobblestones in the area and describes feeling “cold and sick”.

She went to the Focus Ireland coffee shop for an hour, and then felt very unwell. Her temperature increased and she was brought back to St James’s Hospital with pneumonia.

A week on, she says she has been told she will be going back to the hostel. A discharge meeting Monday afternoon will decide her immediate future.“I am terrified to go back,” she says.

She tells how she went to Loreto on the Green and boarded at Sutton Park School, before running a creche and Montessori school in Dublin 6. “I had everything. I employed seven people before the recession and the business folded. I find this all so intimidating.”

‘Everything has been taken away’

Asked how she is, she begins to cry. “Helpless. Everything has been taken away.”

People Before Profit councillor, Tina MacVeigh, describes McCoy’s situation as “absolutely unacceptable”.

“What Denise needs is supported accommodation where she can get appropriate 24-hour care, not have to leave for the day and can wait until she gets a bed in Dún Laoghaire. There is a housing crisis and there is a health service crisis, but Denise is getting caught in the middle.”

A spokesman said St James’s Hospital was working to clarify Ms McCoy’s situation.

A Depaul spokesman said: “We are reliant on working in partnership with others in order to place people in services according to their need.We do offer wheelchair-accessible beds in our one-night services but would much prefer to support people with physical needs in supported accommodation or long-term beds.”

A spokeswoman for the Dublin Region Homeless Executive said there was “a dedicated hospital in-reach liaison who manages the discharge policy for [homeless] persons leaving hospital”.

“They work closely with medical social work teams . . . to ensure the smooth transition from hospital to emergency accommodation for patients.”