Closure of Sruthan House will be 'a real hurt' to service users
As someone who has availed of respite in Sruthan House, disability campaigner John Morgan is appalled at the news that the HSE intends closing the Dundalk respite centre at the end of the year.
'I have been going to Sruthan House for the last number of years,'says John, a wheelchair user.
John says that the idea of going to Sruthan House was first suggested to him by an Occupational Therapist.
He admits that he was a bit surprised at the suggestion as he doesn't live far from the centre, but has come to look forward to his breaks there.
'I love going there now. I live on my own so it's good to get a change of scenery and to meet new people,' he says.
He enjoys the chance to avail of a range of alternative therapies such as reflexology and massage, the musical entertainment in the evenings, and also the outings to places such as Slane Castle, the Irish War Museum in Collon or a trip across Carlingford Lough on the ferry.
'It's the only holiday I have apart from going to Lourdes,' he says.
John fears that his next break in Sruthan House in September will be his last.
'We have been given the option of going to respite services in the Carmel Fallon Irish Wheelchair Association Holiday Centre in Dublin or Cuisle, the IWA National Holiday Centre in Roscommon.'
He explains that he has to get Tom McGahon's wheelchair taxi when he's going to Sruthan House as his electric wheelchair doesn't fold. He also brings a rollator (walking frame) as he doesn't like to be in the chair 24/7, a suitcase, and of course, his assistance dog Jamie.
'While my family are great, they just wouldn't be able to bring all my stuff to Roscommon. I'd love to go to the Carmel Fallon Centre in Dublin but there's a very long waiting list as it caters for the whole of Dublin and Roscommon wouldn't work for me as I wouldn't be able to get my wheelchair and belongings over there.'
John points out that while he is able to live fairly independently, there are others who avail of the respite service in Sruthan House who are more dependant on their families or carers.
'The time they spent in Sruthan Houses allows their families or carers to recharge their batteries or perhaps go for a break themselves,' says John.
'This is going to affect 50 families and service users in Dundalk and surrounding areas. It will be a real hurt for us, losing such a great service.'
He believes that it's a false economy for the HSE to close the centre, noting that staff have been assured that their jobs are secure.
'So what are the savings?' he asks. 'The only other costs are the food and spins out on the bus.'
The matter has been highlighted by a number of local politicians including Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick who said he spoke to the Taoiseach about it, drawing his attention to the letter which had been sent to service users. He called on the Government to reverse the situation, which he believed was due to the overspend on the new children's hospital.
He said that the Taoiseach had thanked him for raising the issue which he was sure 'is of great concern to the service users'. However he had not seen the letter. ' I did not write it and I did not sign it. Therefore, I cannot account for it. I suggest the Deputy may wish to take it up directly with whoever wrote it.
The Taoiseach also denied that' the rising costs of the national children's hospital will not impact on the budget for health services at all.'
'This is going to affect 50 families and service users. It will be a real hurt for us, losing such a great service,' says disability campaigner John Morgan