Statement by Minister Kathleen Lynch - Toghermore House, Tuam, Co Galway

Kathleen Lynch, T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health indicated today (17 January 2013) that she wished to reassure people in the Galway area who may have concerns about the future of Toghermore House.

A recent independent Fire Safety report on the 18 bed Mental Health Residential Unit at the complex was delivered to the HSE in late December. This highlighted a number of shortfalls in relation to Fire Safety which needed to be addressed as a priority. The HSE makes every effort to ensure the quality and safety of all services delivered to patients and staff by keeping such matters under regular review. The HSE commissioned a Fire Safety Compliance Survey and Risk Assessment at Toghermore House, with a view to advising on actions required to satisfy fire safety legislation. The report concluded that the premises currently do not satisfy minimum statutory obligations with respect to safety standards. This covered, for example, issues relating to Means of Escape, Structural Fire Precautions, and Alarm and Emergency lighting systems and equipment.

Once the HSE became aware of the fire safety issues, residents and staff were briefed on the situation.

The Minister said that “The safety of residents and staff in Toghermore is paramount for all concerned. I want to reassure residents, families and staff that full consultation will continue regarding all of the issues relating to Toghermore House. The HSE will ensure that the effect on the residents, arising from this situation, will be minimised to the greatest extent possible. It will continue to engage fully with residents and their families.

Until the current difficulties are clarified, all options will and must continue to be explored. I wish to stress, however that should there be concern for the future of this or any residential unit, the HSE will engage fully in a local consultation process with all stakeholders before any decision is taken".

The Minister also pointed out that in accordance with Section 38 of the Health Act, 1970, the decision to fully close a public residential unit is a matter for the Minister for Health. Therefore, should the HSE conclude that full closure of any public unit is necessary a recommendation to this effect should be forwarded to the Minister for Health. She also stated that “It is important to note that all other services at the Toghermore complex continue to operate as normal.”

The Minister stressed that “this Government remains committed to developing, to the fullest extent possible, policies and services for the Mental Health sector. This includes progressing “A Vision for Change”, and ensuring that mental health patients enjoy optimum care in the most appropriate settings. This stance has been reinforced in a very practical way through additional funding of €35m given in the recent Budget for new service developments nationally”.

ENDS