Quinn says HSE statement confirms worst fears about Mount Sion

Eamonn Wynne

Eamonn Wynne

The Friends of Mount Sion group has stated that it remains strongly opposed to the proposed closure of the Tipperary Town home as a residential unit.

The mental health residence, which was established in 1997, provides medium to long term accommodation and 24-hour nursing support to 15 mental health service users. The HSE recently announced that on the basis that the current accommodation in Mount Sion is no longer appropriate for the ongoing needs of the residents, it had set up a project group to review their individual assessments and to identify alternative and more appropriate residential settings.

“The HSE would like to re-assure residents, their families and staff that no decisions around alternative accommodation have been made and that management and clinical staff will work collaboratively with the residents, their families and service user advocates, taking account of their wishes and their individual assessed needs”, the statement added.

Martin Quinn, chairman of the Friends of Mount Sion, said that the HSE statement confirmed their worst fears in relation to the home’s future as a residential facility.

“The residents are extremely content and happy in Mount Sion and their needs, from a care and social point of view, are very adequately met”, said Mr. Quinn. He said the group had sought meetings with Kathleen Lynch, the Minister with responsibility for Mental Health; and Regional HSE manager Pat Healy to discuss its future.

The residence has seven nursing staff and five household staff and originally opened with 19 beds. The HSE has described it as “an old two-storey building which currently has a preservation order attached to it, and was previously a residence for the Christian Brothers in Tipperary Town”.

The HSE says that the Mount Sion Hostel is comprised of 10 bedrooms, 4 of which are single and the remainder are shared accommodation (12 of the residents currently share bedrooms). 

“In line with Vision for Change, best practice for community residential services is to support smaller, more domestic and homely settings and Mount Sion is no longer in keeping with the expectations of a modern community based mental health service.   

In this regard, and as part of the ongoing development of community mental health service in South Tipperary, a review of all residents in hostel accommodation has been completed. All residents of Mount Sion have had an individual needs assessments, with a view to identifying their most appropriate care pathway; part of this assessment included identifying accommodation options more appropriate to their needs”.

Martin Quinn said that the Friends of Mount Sion wanted to know the rationale behind the proposed closure. “To our knowledge it hasn’t even been explained to the staff and there has been no consultation with anyone”, he stated.

The fact that it was an old two-storey building didn’t make it unsuitable and he couldn’t understand why the HSE said it was no longer in keeping with the expectations of a modern, community-based mental health service.   

He said that the Friends group had made an amount of investment to modernise the building, which included painting and other upgrading works. Some of the furnishings within the building had also been upgraded.

The oratory had been converted into a relaxation room for residents while the HSE had also upgraded the building, including an upgrading of the kitchen.

While he didn’t believe that Mount Sion would be closed, Mr. Quinn said that the group wanted it to continue as a nursing home and as a residential facility that provided full nursing care and community support.

The chairman also disputed the HSE’s claim that Mount Sion was no longer in keeping with Vision for Change, where best practice for community residential services was to support smaller, more domestic and homely settings.

“You couldn’t find a more homely setting than Mount Sion if you travelled the country. There’s peace and tranquillity for the residents and it has a real family feel to it”, he said.

It was one thing to reduce the number of residents accommodated there and quite another to close it as a residence.

Mr. Quinn added that the Friends group would consult with supporters before deciding on their next course of action. “There continues to be huge support within the community for the retention of Mount Sion as a residential facility”, he said.

The HSE also stated that consultation had commenced with residents and their families, facilitated by the Assistant Director of Nursing from South Tipperary Mental Health, who was meeting with individual residents and their families to discuss the potential options.

“These options, which are in the Tipperary town area, include a move to independent living with follow-up support and medium or high support accommodation in smaller more appropriate settings. Staff associated with Mount Sion will remain involved in supporting these residents and in the further development of modern mental health services in Tipperary Town”.

Meanwhile, Deputy Tom Hayes said that no decision had been made to close the Mount Sion community residence in Tipperary. At his request HSE officials visited the patients at Mount Sion to reassure them that they had no immediate plans to close the unit and that if any decision was ever made about the future of the facility, the patients and their families would be the first to be consulted. “Following a number of queries I made on behalf of the patients and staff at Mount Sion, I have been informed that absolutely no decision has been made to close the location. Having met with representatives last Monday, I was informed of their concerns that the location would be closed in the near future, and that staff and patients were extremely worried about their situation.

I was eager to get to the bottom of this matter and following consultation with Minister Lynch in the Department of Health and other senior HSE officials, I was informed that no such closure was planned at Mount Sion. Deputy Hayes said he would continue to work on this particular issue and would endeavour to arrange a meeting with officials as soon as possible to further investigate the matter.