THE Health Service Executive (HSE) does not envisage it will be in a position over the coming years to provide funding for the €800,000 dementia unit in Clarecastle, which is lying idle for the past week.
The HSE stance in relation to the provision of €150,000 for the day-to-day running of the unit was outlined in response to a question tabled by Councillor Paul Murphy at a HSE West Forum meeting in Galway on Tuesday.
Councillor Murphy asked the health authority what its plans are concerning funding for the dementia unit and proposed the agency should meet with a delegation from the Clarecastle Daycare Centre to discuss what vision both parties have for the future of the unit.
He told the meeting the dementia daycare centre serves a catchment area of 48,000 people, providing vital services and valuable respite for carers. He added that there is a waiting list of 30 people, while the unit can cater for 25 patients.
The HSE said the centre received a considerable amount of funding and in 2009 their allocation of €466,004 represented half of the HSE allocation to voluntary organisations for older people.
“The responsibility of the HSE is to develop services across the entire county and not just concentrate resources in one geographical area. In Ennis, there are two specialist services for older people with dementia, one provided directly by the HSE and the other through funding provided to the Alzheimer’s Society.
“Given the need to take account of equity and access to services across the entire county, we do not view the development of a third specialised service in the Ennis area as being amongst our priorities,” the HSE responded.
It also stated it had consistently advised the board of Clarecastle Day Centre Limited that it is not in a position to provide revenue for their proposed standalone dementia unit and that any consideration could only happen if new service monies become available.
In an effort to assist the centre, the HSE has worked with them to explore alternative arrangements that would allow for the new building to be commissioned in a phased manner over a number of years.
The HSE also suggested that Clarecastle should enter into a partnership arrangement with the Alzheimer Society, who have considerable expertise and already operate a specialised dementia service in Ennis. However, this proposal was unsuccessful in reaching an agreement.
The HSE has now reached an agreement with the Alzheimer Society to develop a dementia-specific daycare centre on the St Joseph’s Hospital campus.
HSE community services manager, Catherine Cunningham, told the meeting the authority is in ongoing discussions with Clarecastle Daycare Centre to establish if an alternative arrangement can be put in place.
HSE regional director, John Hennessy added that although the HSE acknowledges the huge value of the work by voluntary care groups such as the Clarecastle Centre, it could only support funding that it would be able to sustain in the future.
Local health manager Bernard Gloster suggested councillors should be presented with a briefing on all issues associated with Alzheimer’s in the county, as well as current obstacles to further developments.