Wednesday 21 February 2018

Pressure on minister as health unit faces axe

Dáil Éireann. Stock picture
Dáil Éireann. Stock picture

Eilish O'Regan and Cormac McQuinn

A crunch meeting on the possible closure of a mental health facility for the elderly will be held at senior level today as Communications Minister Denis Naughten comes under increasing pressure to secure its future.

Fears are growing that Áras Naomh Chaolain in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, will shut.

A spokeswoman for the minister, who is TD for Roscommon, declined to say whether he would resign from Cabinet if the facility was closed by the HSE.

There are 14 patients suffering from dementia living in the facility in Castlerea.

A spokeswoman for Mr Naughten - who quit Fine Gael after the closure of the A&E unit in Roscommon Hospital - said an agreement was made to keep the facility open in 2015 and he would be demanding this is honoured.

He has blamed the HSE for stopping new admissions to the home, which angry locals have described as closure "by stealth".

The row will be discussed by HSE official Tony Canavan and Health Minister Simon Harris on a visit to Galway today.

The HSE did not respond to questions from the Irish Independent yesterday.

Breege Callaghan, the western regional representative of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, warned some of the residents of the home had nobody to speak for them.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice argued capacity should remain at Áras Naomh Chaolain, due to the high proportion of people in the region suffering from dementia.

He called on the minister to act, saying that Mr Naughten told a public meeting on the home last week that he is "standing with the people".

"If you're standing with the people, nothing should close," Mr Fitzmaurice said.

Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy said Mr Naughten "has to deliver on it now".

Irish Independent

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