Wednesday 22 May 2019

St Aidan's Services on brink of closure

CEO Maura Kelly and day services co-ordinator Siobhan Kavanagh, who want the HSE to act ‘as a matter of urgency’
CEO Maura Kelly and day services co-ordinator Siobhan Kavanagh, who want the HSE to act ‘as a matter of urgency’

Brendan Keane

St Aidan's Services in Gorey is in serious financial crisis and is calling on the HSE to honour an agreement made in 2016 to provide funding to the organisation to address a core financial deficit.

At an Annual General Meeting of the organisation on Thursday a large number of families, service users and staff were informed that the centre is in danger of imminent closure unless the situation is addressed.

Invitations were sent out to the members of Wexford County Council to attend the meeting and the Chief Executive Officer of the centre, Maura Kelly, expressed gratitude to the three councillors who did turn up: Cllrs Johnny Mythen, Malcolm Byrne and Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin.

Speaking to this newspaper about the situation Ms Kelly said the issue has reached crisis point and the HSE needs to address it as 'a matter of urgency'.

'If not, we are in real threat of closure if this isn't addressed,' she said.

Ms Kelly acknowledged the support of the three councillors who turned up at the meeting and said: 'St Aidan's would like to thank them most sincerely for their attendance, support and their commitment given on the night to support the service during this crisis.'

At the meeting, the centre's chairperson, Pat McCarthy, said it was with regret that he was informing the families of service users about the financial crisis.

'If it's not urgently resolved by the HSE it will result in services being closed,' he said.

The centre's auditor also expressed his concerns for the future of the organisation if the matter isn't addressed immediately.

St Aidan's currently provides day, residential, respite, pre-school, elderly services and training services to over 250 individuals. It also provides meals-on-wheels to the local community four-days-a-week and 130 staff are employed throughout the services.

'This crisis that the organisation finds itself in is due to the fact that the HSE have not honoured an agreement which was made in 2016,' said Ms Kelly.

'A core deficit was identified and agreed with the HSE in 2016 for ongoing services the organisation was providing without funding totalling to €277,151.00 per annum,' she added.

The HSE has provided €167,771.00 on an ongoing basis towards that identified deficit.

However, Ms Kelly said the Board of Directors and senior management have been continuously pursuing the outstanding amount of €109,380.00 for the last three years which now amounts to €328,140.00 owing to the organisation.

To compound the matter further non-compliance following recent HIQA inspections led to additional staffing resources being required to be allocated to two centres and that amounted to €172,278 per annum.

'The HSE has been furnished with these costs and is aware that these measures had to be taken in order to become compliant,' said Ms Kelly.

'This is now a substantial cost to the organisation additional to the identified core deficit,' she added.

At the AGM the news of the crisis led to emotional scenes with families, service users and staff members getting visibly upset.

One parent at the meeting said it was 'dreadful and upsetting' to see the most vulnerable people in society 'who can't speak up for themselves' being treated in such a 'dreadful way'.

The Board of Directors and senior management are calling on local representatives to advocate on behalf of St Aidan's Services and use their political power as leverage to have the crisis addressed as a matter of urgency with the Department of Health and the HSE.

Ms Kelly also said that 'St Aidan's Board of Directors and senior management are fully committed to continue in their on-going efforts and endeavours to resolve this crisis.'

Cllrs Johnny Mythen and Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin issued a joint statement on the matter in which they said: 'This has gravely serious implications for disability services in the South East as well as for the many employees. Our Sinn Féin colleagues will be raising this in Leinster House and we are calling on Junior Finance Minister, Michael D'Arcy to intervene immediately to ensure that Minister Harris makes the HSE honour commitments already given to St Aidan's and to secure its future.'

When contacted about the matter the HSE issued the following statement: 'The HSE/South East Community Healthcare works closely with St Aidan's Services and values the outstanding care provided by the organisation (which the HSE supports with funding through Section 39 of the Health Act) in serving the community in North County Wexford. The HSE is aware of challenges faced by St. Aidan's and is liaising with its Board of Management in that respect.'

Gorey Guardian