Wednesday 29 January 2020

Naughten under pressure as local health unit closes

Communications Minister Denis Naughten. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Communications Minister Denis Naughten. Photo: Doug O'Connor

Laura Larkin

Independent Minister Denis Naughten is facing increasing pressure to withdraw his support from the Government over the closure of health facilities in his constituency.

A row has erupted in his constituency of Roscommon-Galway relating to an overhaul of mental health services in Co Roscommon.

A day care facility in Ballaghaderreen is due to close shortly, while a decision on a separate unit in Castlerea for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia is expected to be made by the end of the month.

A heated meeting was held with the HSE over the future of both services in recent days.

The Rosalie unit in Castlerea has not been accepting residents since September 2016 and the HSE said it has now begun a process of assessing the needs of the final 12 residents.

Tony Canavan, the HSE's chief officer for the west, has said he believes the needs of the remaining residents in the unit can be better met elsewhere. An assessment carried out with each of the patients is due to be independently reviewed in the coming weeks.

Mr Canavan said the next steps for each person will then be discussed with residents and their families.

However, it is feared that the unit will be wound down despite earlier assurances that it would remain open.

Mr Naughten, who lost the Fine Gael whip in 2011 following a row over the closure of the A&E unit in Co Roscommon, left the meeting last Friday "in disgust".

He is expected to raise the matter with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar when he returns from New York this week.

"I left the meeting in disgust as clearly the HSE is not prepared to even consider the impact this is having on residents or views of next-of-kin," Mr Naughten said.

"I've written to Jim Daly on foot of the meeting and I'll be seeking a meeting with him and the Minister for Health this week."

However, a spokeswoman said she could not comment on whether Mr Naughten is considering withdrawing his support from the minority Government if the matter is not resolved. When the decision to place an embargo on admissions to the unit was imposed by the HSE, Mr Naughten said the behaviour on the part of the HSE was a "replication of what went on in the past".

Mr Canavan confirmed to the Irish Independent that there are no plans to reverse that embargo, which will lead to the inevitable closure of the unit.

Mr Naughten's constituency colleague, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, called on Mr Naughten to stand by previous commitments on this issue.

"Let us make our voices be heard clearly by Government and whether it brings down this Government is inconsequential because what matters only is the retention of facilities and the enhancement of services for the people of our county," Mr Fitzmaurice said.

He said it is time for TDs in the area to "put people before politics".

Addressing the issue in the Dáil, Minister for Older People Jim Daly said the decision on the future of the unit will be made on the basis of assessments carried out.

"It is not about the politics or who said what. It is about the well-being of the 12 remaining residents," he said in response to questions from Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy.

Irish Independent

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