THREE of the five day care centres for the elderly in West Cork remain shut since they closed at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, leaving service users feeling forgotten.
When Covid hit, staff in HSE-run centres in Clonakilty, Skibbereen and Dunmanway Hospitals were redeployed to the Ballinacarriga testing centre, where they have remained.
The HSE said that intensive efforts are underway to recruit staff for the test centre, so that day centre staff can return to their posts.
However, there’s no timeline for such reopenings, leaving the elderly feeling left behind. Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler announced at the end of last May that the HSE would open these centres nationally throughout July and August.
Minister Butler, at the time, described day centres as ‘fundamental to the health and well-being of our older population’ and said they ‘play a key role in enabling older people to live independently in their own communities.’
Bantry and Castletownbere’s day care centres have been able to reopen as their staff were redeployed in the community.
The HSE said that a day care centre in Skibbereen which is operated by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland is also open.
An 83-year-old woman who attended the Clonakilty centre once a week said she was really missing the service which is attended by around 20 people five days a week.
‘I was collected directly from my house and it was a great way of getting out independently, without having to ask my family, and catching up with people. It was also handy as we had access to a hairdresser, physiotherapist and chiropractor,’ she said.
She said she understands that staff are needed elsewhere, but said it was disappointing they didn’t even have a reopening date at this stage.
Norma O’Sullivan, chair of the group Friends of Clonakilty Day Care Centre, agreed that redeployed staff were doing vital work: ‘But if the elderly even had a date, or some timeline to look forward to, it would give them a boost. The staff have been wonderful keeping people informed, but our elderly are feeling forgotten and left out now.’
Treasurer of the group which fundraises for the centre, Kevin O’Sullivan, said they were concerned for the elderly service users, who are without the facility now for 20 months.
FG Cllr Karen Coakley said the Skibbereen centre was a lifeline for so many elderly people, as well as giving carers much-needed respite.
‘A timeline for its reopening would give people hope,’ she said.