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Loughrea Day Centre protestors take to the streets

Campaigners for the reopening of the Seven Springs Day Centre in Loughrea have rejected claims that the Health Service Executive had no choice but to take over the facility for long-term residents of St Brendan’s Nursing Home.

Over 150 locals took to the streets last Friday in wet and windy conditions to again protest what has happened to the Day Care Centre, which they insist was a condition of a bequest from the Topping family to fund the community nursing unit overlooking the lake.

Chief Officer of Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche told Galway Bay FM on Monday that the HSE were instructed by Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) that St Brendan’s Community Nursing Unit (CNU) did not have enough communal space for its 100 residents.

She stated following negotiations with HIQA it was agreed they should take over the day centre room, which was being used for the last two years for dining and as a sitting room when the day centre was forced to close during the pandemic.

She stated that 71 residents were currently living in the nursing home, 60 of them are long-term, ten are short-stay and one is a palliative care resident.

“They instructed us to take the Seven Springs Day Care room into use because we didn’t have enough community space or it would have risked our registration,” she insisted.

A temporary solution has been put in place where the day centre is operating at the Loughrea Hotel and Spa for three days a week and for one day a week at Seven Springs. In the meantime, management have identified a building on the campus which will be renovated to create a new day centre. Money from the Topping Trust will be used to fund this.

Mattie Quinn, who chaired a community meeting last week, said there was no mention of this instruction from HIQA in the last two inspection reports of St Brendan’s.

“There was only an observation that the Seven Springs room was being used for dining. What we want to know is how can there not be enough communal space when St Brendan’s is not even full. There are dining rooms in each of the four blocks – why do they have to take over Seven Springs?”

He said was a “fierce outpouring of emotion and bewilderment” over the removal of the purpose-built day centre.

“My neighbour uses this. It was an absolutely fabulous social facility where they could visit the chiropodist, the hairdresser, avail of specialist showering. Musicians would come in to play. To think people could come in and pull the rug out from under them after the trauma of Covid. This was the little bit of comfort they had,” he exclaimed.

“How could anybody treat people like this? We all know that any time the HSE say they are going to refurb this or build that how long it takes – all the residents who use it will be dead.”

County Cathaoirleach Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher (FG) said talk in the Dáil by Deputy Sean Canny that people had been thrown out was “terrible”.

“Look, if I thought I was being led up the garden path I’d be out there joining the protests. But I trust what [Ms Crehan-Roche] is saying, HIQA is the governing body and they have directed her to take over the Seven Springs. We’re working together and hope to have a new one ready as soon as possible on the same site. I’m willing to give her a bit of time to get this sorted.”

A group calling itself Concerned Citizens handed in a letter to the management of St Brendan’s CNU after Friday’s march to appeal against the re-registering of the nursing unit with the day centre.

“This is an unjust and incorrect decision which has resulted in the users having to relocate to an unsuitable location at the Loughrea Hotel & Spa at an unknown cost to the taxpayer.”

Councillor Geraldine Donohue (Ind) said she continued to support those who believed the Seven Springs should be reopened on a full-time basis.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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