HSE criticised and called to reverse Sli Eile decision

Bernie Commins

Bernie Commins

Calls have been made for the HSE to reverse its shock decision to close the only acquired brain injury (ABI) assessment and transitional living unit in the South East.

The recent announcement by the HSE to close Slí Eile, located in Clonmel, was received with widespread criticism at this month’s meeting of Clonmel Borough Council and there was unanimous support for Cllr Darren Ryan’s motion to ask the HSE to reverse its ‘unjust and wrong decision’. Councillors also strongly condemned the lack of consultation between HSE senior management, service users, family and staff.

An independent review of the Slí Eile service which took place in January 2013, provided options to modernise and reconfigure the existing services and move to a new model of care, according to the HSE. Slí Eile, which has operated as a transitional living unit in Clonmel has provided short to medium term transitional (four nights/five days Monday to Friday) residential rehabilitation placements for, on average, one to two adults with an ABI. The unit has the ccapacity for three adults in total. But enhanced community services at a local level have resulted in low occupancy levels in Slí Eile, according to the HSE which stated there is an average occupancy level of 50% (one to two clients) on an ongoing basis with an average placement lasting from two to six weeks (Monday to Friday).

The unit opened 14 years ago amidst some objection at the time from residents in the area, councillors recalled at this month’s meeting, adding that it was unbelievable that the HSE now wanted to close a succesful unit which they themselves fought so hard to open there in the first place. Cllr Ryan said that the HSE are now contradicting their own policies.

“The HSE are contradicting two of their own policies, one is that we should be operating under the social model and getting away from the medical model in disability. The social model has proven to be an enormous success, the people have integrated so much with the community in the area, not just in the estate. Their policy that the money follows the patient? Well I can assure you that each and every one of those people would rather stay where they are rather than be in a big campus on the grounds of the hospital, so they are contradicting their own policies by these actions,” he said.

According to him in excess of 20 people availing of the day placement service will be affected by the closure and many families who had no idea what was happening, had been in touch with him.

Cllr Molloy said the HSE’s ‘almost overnight decision’ to close Slí Eile came as a big shock to families and carers and one which he found hard to grasp.

“And it strikes me as being so crazy because financially these units are cost effective. The clients are getting almost one-to-one care which the governments of the day will tell you is the overall vision of community care. And in closing a unit like this, there is almost a suggestion of going back to having these big units with 40 or 50 people lobbed in there, almost going back to the days when you had all the different psychiatric hospitals open, and you would imagine that the government would learn from the reports that these units didn’t work,” he said.

Cllr Teresa Ryan condemned the HSE’s actions.

“The giveaway in this motion is that it is an acquired brain injury unit, which means that family and friends cannot make a decision for someone with an acquired brain injury, that is why it is so important that there is a designated home where they are loked after with the utmost care and love and on a one-to-one basis as they have been. To take this service away from people who are very vulnerable, and hurt their families in the way this announcement was made is just reprehensible.”
Mayor of Clonmel Cllr Billy Shoer recalled a meeting that took place in the Towh Hall about 14 years ago when he said the residents of Toberaheena objected very strongly to the establishment of Sli Eile in the estate.

“The people have accepted that unit and it is terribly wrong to close it because the HSE management were the ones at the time who were pushing to have it introduced into a friendly community society where people could be integrated and that is what happened and it has been a great success,” he said.

The HSE said services for people with an ABI were to be reorganised in partnership with ABI Ireland. This will allow staff from Sli Eile to be redeployed to replace agency staff at Damien House which provides day and high support 24/7 residential services to adults with moderate or severe intellectual disabilities. The Sli Eile unit has a staff of ten, a manager and nine social care staff.