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 Header Item Broadband Services Provision (Continued)
 Header Item Mental Health Services Provision

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 4

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte] There are in contemplation a few other very innovative initiatives in respect of the area in which the Deputy is interested. I am not in a position to deal with those, but the House will have noticed that the State has received more than €850 million from telecommunications companies recently as result of the spectrum auction, and in turn the four successful companies are engaged in preparation for the roll-out of next generation access. There is considerable progress and I thank the Deputy for raising the issue.

Deputy Noel Harrington: Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington I thank the Minister for his reply and for his commitment to delivering what he regards as vital infrastructure. I join him in welcoming the appointment of Lord David Puttnam as our digital champion. It is a brilliant appointment and I believe his passion and knowledge will bear fruit. I was in his home and I have seen what he can do, which is quite remarkable. While I do not want to pour cold water on it, he can deliver learning and lectures to people across the globe but the problem is in many places he cannot do so five or ten miles out the road. That is the challenge and I know the Minister accepts it. The time might come eventually when we will spend four days in committee in our own homes and spend one day in plenary in Dublin. The technology is not that far away and is something that could be considered. Similarly, university students could study from their own homes for the majority of the time. We have not even contemplated the economic and social advantages that could bring to a student's home life, especially to one from a rural area. We need to consider the economic, social and communications activity this could generate.

The globe has become a fairly small marble in terms of communications, as the Minister has recognised. I am very glad my dates are wrong and that the Minister has corrected me. It is far more advanced than I had thought. I look forward to the delivery of the programmes as they come on stream. I look forward to a greater quality of life for those people who have been challenged by a poor service to date.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I agree with everything the Deputy has said about the potential and the importance of this in terms of priority policy decision making at Government level. A few weeks ago, colleagues from my Department visited a secondary school in what can only properly be termed a socially disadvantaged area of the city. They were amazed to find five young women studying honours mathematics remotely with a teacher in Coláiste Bríde in Clondalkin. Honours mathematics was not available in the school previously. The prospect of specialist teachers being accessed remotely has immense implications and it really changes the classroom, as we know it. It is worth visiting that school to see how it functions.

Mental Health Services Provision

Deputy Michael P. Kitt: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise the issue and I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to deal with it. I am inquiring about the transfer of 18 residents from Toghermore House to other centres. The Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, opened part of the centre at Toghermore House in autumn 2011. It is a very fine facility and there has been great praise for the work that has been done there. Much money has been spent on Toghermore House and it would not take much more to address the fire and safety standards that have been highlighted as a problem.

It would be very harsh to move 18 people from Toghermore House coming up to Christmas with no centres as yet identified for those residents. We need a better response from the HSE on this issue. I understand the engineer's report, which has just come in, refers to fire doors that are urgently needed, and I hope they will be installed. Effectively, there is no need to close Toghermore House if we can address the issue of fire safety. We have been advised that the service and training will continue at Toghermore House. It is an example of decisions being made at short notice with very serious implications for the users of health services in County Galway. In the past year, nursing home centres at Woodford and Oughterard, to name but two, were closed without warning. Indeed the facility at Woodford closed over a weekend. I would like the Minister of State to reconsider this question. If improvements need to be carried out, what does the improvement work entail and how much will it cost? I would like to see a more complete statement from the HSE than the one I saw.

I have referred to 18 residents, but there is considerably more activity in the centre. The training places and day places mean that up to 50 or 60 people use the services there. Given the availability of this centre, no rented properties are used in Tuam and these 18 people have rights like everybody else.

I am sure the Minister of State knows the history of Toghermore House. The house was donated to the State by the late former Labour Senator, Bobby Burke, and it is now the headquarters for mental health services in Tuam and Headford. The family of the late Bobby Burke are held in very high regard in the north County Galway area. The facility has proven very cost-effective when compared with the alternative of using rented property. It is also helping to cast away the stigma associated with psychological illnesses by encouraging people to seek treatment and help, just as they would for any other health complaint. The staff have told me having people at Toghermore House has prevented admission to hospital, or where there is admission to hospital it has meant a shorter stay for people in hospital.

The historic Toghermore House is the headquarters for this area and plans are under way to locate other health services there such as speech and language therapy and physiotherapy. The campus might also be used in the future by some local voluntary organisations. Extensive renovation and refurbishment works have been carried out on the main house, while vacant dilapidated warehouses and stores have been transformed into modern clinic rooms, offices and recreational areas. It is a very fine facility and I would not like to see it undermined in any way from the point of view of the residents or the staff. I believe we have a very good centre and I hope the Minister of State can give us some information on the engineer's report. I hope we can assure the people who use the service that the residential centre will continue in operation.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Alex White): Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White I thank Deputy Kitt for raising this issue for discussion today which I am taking on behalf the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch.

Tuam mental health services cater for the Tuam and Headford catchment areas with a population of approximately 35,000 and a caseload in excess of 800 individuals. Traditionally the service was provided at St. Brigid's Hospital in east Galway, but gradually over the years, community mental health services in Tuam and Headford have been developed, as the Deputy indicated. Among the services provided by Tuam community mental health services are a day hospital which operates five days per week as a community mental health centre; a day centre which provides a seven-day service for approximately 30 patients; one high-support, three medium-support and five low-support residences, accommodating 40 service users; and Toghermore House, an 18-bed residence providing high support to a mixed service-user group, including elderly, those with a learning disability, those in need of continuing care and respite accommodation.

The HSE makes every effort to ensure the quality and safety of all services delivered to patients and staff by keeping such matters under review. As such, an independent fire and safety review on Toghermore House was undertaken in September last and its final report was submitted to the HSE last week. The report shows that the current facility does not meet the minimum fire safety standards for this type of building, which needs to be addressed immediately.

The HSE has formed a local steering group to assess the challenges outlined in the report with a view to closing the facility as a matter of urgency.

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