The sudden closure of a HSE-funded mental health service in Dublin has prompted calls for an investigation into its management and demands that it “open its books” for scrutiny.
Hesed House in Inchicore has provided counselling and psychotherapy to adults, children and families for almost 30 years. It closes on Friday with a creditors' meeting scheduled for the same day.
Staff were initially informed last month by letter, it would close on June 18th and in the last fortnight that it would close on June 4th. Sources say they were told the decision to close was taken following funding cuts by the HSE. It is understood the service received about €154,000 a year from a variety of sources including the HSE and the local drug and alcohol taskforce.
It employed four therapist administrators and had several hundred clients on its books, a source told The Irish Times. Staff are understood to be “bewildered” and “heartbroken” by the sudden closure and the news that a liquidator is to be appointed.
The service has been run out of a house on Tyrconnell Road owned by the Sisters of Mercy and let to the operators for a “peppercorn”, or token, rent.
Clinical director, Padraic Gibson, did not respond to calls or texts from The Irish Times.
Dublin South-Central TD Bríd Smith said she was concerned the sudden closure would leave vulnerable clients without a service. “The workers have been left completely in the dark about what has been happening. Some scrutiny of how Hesed House has been managed must be brought to bear. The most important thing now is that the welfare of the clients of this high quality service is protected and the workers are properly looked after.”
Local councillor, Daithí Doolan, said the service provided “to some of the most vulnerable people and families in the community” was “essential . . . and must continue to be provided”. He said this could be achieved with a new board of management, and under new governance, from the same location. Otherwise, he said, clients must be “sensitively referred on to other services”.
“First and foremost the continuing needs of the clients must be met. The rights of the employees must be treated with dignity and respected.
“There are sensitive files there that need to be protected. And then management should be held to account for how this service has been run.”
A spokeswoman for the HSE said: “The closure of Hesed House was an independent decision of the board of management of Hesed House.
“The HSE are willing and keen to work with the liquidator to support the transfer of clients and their files to other appropriate organisations. As the decision was taken by the board of management the HSE is unable to comment regarding closure of Hesed House.”
The Sisters of Mercy said: “We were informed of the recent decision in regard to the Hesed House service in recent days. This service stands as an independent service, run by an independent board, in which we have no role or responsibility.”