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Laois Mental Health Unit To Be Moved 60km Away

The disruption is being branded as totally unnecessary.

The HSE has confirmed a mental health unit in Laois is being moved over 60 kilometres away.

Erkina House in Rathdowney - which is home to 12 residents - is no longer considered suitable by contemporary standards, according to the health service.

It intends to transfer the residents and staff to the newly-purchased Silver Lodge building in Tullamore instead.

Laois-Offaly Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley is strongly opposed to the move.

He claims the problems with the premises - including all but one bedroom being upstairs - could be rectified, in that case with the installation of a lift.

Deputy Stanley thinks Erkina is "the gold standard" in mental healthcare and the disruption is wholly unnecessary:

A HSE spokesperson gave the following statement to Midlands 103... 

Current situation:

In 2020, due to the COVID19 pandemic the bed capacity in Erkina House, went from a capacity of 17 to 11 residents (which increased to 12 residents in 2021).

Changes in service expectations:

Erkina House is considered unsuitable in contemporary mental health service provision. 

The Housing Agency and the HSE have drawn together best practice in home design for people living with enduring and life altering mental health conditions into design guidelines to help facilitate independent living, Design for Mental Health Housing Design Guidelines: to promote independent living and mental health recovery (HSE, 2017). 

As in the case of a person with a physical disability, and indeed for everybody in society, a well organised, needs-driven, tailored environment can make it easier for people diagnosed with mental health conditions to carry out daily living tasks, reduce environmental stressors and promote independence and quality of life. 

All bedrooms accept one in Erkina are small and located upstairs and shower and toilet facilities would be considered less than adequate.

As Erkina is located in a rural area, it has limited access to community services and public transport, when it is widely accepted that the number and quality of amenities can have a positive impact on individual recovery.

Planned change:

In June 2020, the HSE, on behalf of Laois/Offaly Mental Health Service, purchased a modern building in Tullamore town called Silver Lodge. 

The purchase of this building is one part of Laois/Offaly mental health service development and reform plan to modernise residential services aligned with Vision for Change 2006. 

To that end a funding application and business case have been submitted under capital spending to build a new 10 bed community residence in Portlaoise. 

The aim is to provide a consistent quality approach across all community residences, whilst responding to the care needs of service users as supported by national policy, Vision for Change, The MHC Quality Framework and Sharing the Vision.

The long term plan for Silver Lodge is to function as a high support 24 hour nurse supervised community residence. 

This will provide suitable modern accommodation for intensive Rehabilitation and Recovery services within Laois Offaly Mental Health services. 

However, due to service needs associated with the urgent refurbishment of the Maryborough Psychiatry of Later Life Approved Centre, Silver Lodge instead facilitated temporary accommodation for this service. 

The projected completion date for Maryborough refurbishment is by the end of June 2022. 

This in turn will render Silver Lodge available for occupancy. It is proposed to transfer services from Erkina to Silver Lodge.

Consultation and Planning stage:

The Rehab and Recovery team have been advised by Executive Clinical Director and Area Director of Nursing that Silver Lodge is approved for use as a staffed community residence to re-provide for the service currently delivered in Erkina House, Rathdowney. 

The relocation to Silver Lodge will greatly improve the care environment for service users and staff alike.

Over the coming months a number of consultative approaches are in preparedness for the transfer of services;

- The service users will be kept fully informed on the transfer to Tullamore and they will have opportunity to visit Silver Lodge and their views will be considered.

- The Consultant Psychiatrist for the service users will have regard for the clinical needs of residents and their transfer to Silver Lodge in Tullamore.

- The multi-disciplinary Rehabilitation team will also engage, with service users consent, with relatives of the service users to discuss the transfer.

- Informal discussion has begun with staff representatives.

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