The respite centre in Mountcharles
More than 100 families from Glencolmcille to Bundoran who use a respite centre based in Mountcharles are enduring severe hardship because the centre has had to cut back on the days it can open.
Seaview Respite House in Mountcharles caters for children from the age of six years upwards and adults with an intellectual disability and autism on a rotational basis.
It’s claimed the centre has had to return to a three day week because of a lack of resources. Cllr Barry O’Neill has asked the HSE to attend a special meeting with the members of the Donegal Municipal District to deal with the issue.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Municipal District, Cllr O’Neill said in early June he and others had protested outside the HSE’s offices in Ballyshannon to highlight the cutbacks at that time in the number of days the centre was open.
Over 100 families in South Donegal attend the centre.
“We were told following protest on June 2nd there would be a full restoration of the service which had been caused by staff shortages. I am now being told by parents that the centre is now reduced to operating on a three day week, due to staff shortages,” he said.
In June 2017 the Donegal Democrat reported that three posts at the unit were being recruited via the national recruitment service and when staff were in place the service was expected to resume seven days a week.
The Democrat understands this did occur. However, according to Cllr O’Neill, a lack of resources has seen the service reduced again - to three days per week.
On Tuesday he said: “This is a resource issue, this is not a capital issue, the centre should be open. It’s time the HSE come clean and face the public and say this will be rectified and will not happen again,” he said.
“This is a vital service to families, and I’m hearing now that families are, in some cases, getting one days’ notice that there is no service.
“Let me be crystal clear here, this is not the fault of the staff, the standard of care at the centre is excellent. This is not the fault of the staff, it is the fault of the system,” he said.
He added: “I am questioning the ability of the HSE to provide the resource, the manpower and the human resources to keep this centre open.”
Cllr O’Neill said he wanted to invite the HSE to send a representative to a meeting with the councillors to try and find out what is happening and why the service is being reduced, often at short notice.
“Families have been in touch with me and they want to know what is happening,” he said.
His proposal to invite the HSE to attend a special meeting at their earliest convenience was seconded by Cllr Noel Jordan.
Asked by a council official if they would invite the HSE to attend a workshop, Cllr O’Neill said he wanted the meeting to be a public one: “No, a workshop is private, this is a matter of public concern and should be dealt with at a meeting open to the public, workshops are behind closed doors.”
Cllr Niamh Kennedy suggested they might broaden the invitation to the HSE to discuss other centres in the area, but Cllr O’Neill said he was keen they would not lose their focus. He felt they needed to concentrate on the issue at Mountcharles at a stand alone meeting with the HSE.
“This is urgent and I don’t want us to dilute this one. I appreciate the sentiment and the importance of the other centres also, but I think we should keep our focus on Mountcharles and see if we can get progress there,” he added. Cllr Kennedy said she accepted this.
All five fellow councillors supported Cllr O’Neill and a letter of invitation is to be sent to the HSE to meet them.
In a response to concerns raised by Cllr Barry O'Neill in relation to curtailed opening hours at Seaview Respite Centre in Mountcharles, the HSE say they wish to apologise for the curtailment over the last few months.
In a statement supplied to the Donegal Democrat in response to the concerns raised by Cllr O'Neill, the HSE say the curtailement is due to staff shortages due to illness, leave and retirement.
The HSE statement in full is as follows:
“Seaview Respite house is located in Mountcharles Donegal. It provides respite for children and adults with an Intellectual Disability and or Autism on a rotational basis for South West Donegal area.
“The HSE wishes to apologise for the curtailment of respite services at Seaview House over the last few months, which has occurred as a result of staff shortages due to illness leave and retirement.
“We are continuing to work with our colleagues in the National Recruitment Service to try to recruit and replace staff in as timely a manner as possible.
“We acknowledge the upset and distress that this situation has caused to our clients and families, and we apologise unreservedly for this.
“The HSE wish to confirm that One Health Care Assistant commenced on 2nd of October and other Health Care Assistant appointments are in process.
“Currently the service can only operate on a three night basis, which nights it is open will vary depending on the requests received.
“We are very aware of the importance of this service for families in South Donegal and of the difficulties that this situation has caused for everyone involved. As such, we remain committed to ensuring that the respite service resumes on a full time basis as soon as all the staffing vacancies are filled.”