The Rosalie Unit at Áras Naomh Chaolain, Castlerea, will not now close following a dramatic reversal from the Government and the Health Service Executive.
Fears that the unit, which caters for 23 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, was set to shut down had been circulating for many months.
The HSE were carrying out a clinical assessment of patients, with a view to discharging them to nursing homes, it is understood.
However, the plans prompted outrage in Castlerea. The about-turn was confirmed by Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch on Tuesday in Government Buildings, Dublin.
She met with a deputation of a committee from Castlerea that was established to oppose the plans, along with local politicians and HSE officials.
After the meeting, which lasted one and a half hours, Dr Greg Kelly, a member of the deputation, said: “Minister Lynch said that the future of the Rosalie Unit was secure and would be part of mental health services in Roscommon in the future.
“She said there are no plans to close it and there will be no such plans. She said that no patient would be transferred from the unit, unless there was a genuine medical reason for doing so, and with the consent of relatives.”
Dr Kelly, a GP in Castlerea, expressed his delight at the outcome.
“It is a victory for the people who stood up for the voiceless and ensured that they will be treated properly and won’t be living under threat of being evicted from their own home,” he said.
“A bad decision – the closure of the unit – has been averted.”
Another member of the deputation at the meeting was Liam Walsh. His mother, Breda, who is 79, is a resident at the unit.
He, too, was pleased with the outcome.
“From listening to the senior politicians, we could not have got a more comprehensive assurance that the unit would remain open,” he said.
“It was a climbdown.”
The Minister said that she did not approve of how the HSE handled the situation, the deputation claimed.
“She made it clear that she was not happy that the patients had been assessed with a view to transferring them without the knowledge of their families and relatives,” said Dr Kelly. “She found that objectionable.”
Mr Walsh said that the two HSE officials present at the meeting – Bernard Gloter (chief officer for Galway Mayo Roscommon) and John Meehan (specialist in mental health, HSE West) – apologised to him, on behalf of the families concerned, for the way that they handled the situation.