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Former carer of the year sees ‘100% cut to respite’ care

  • 22 Feb 2016

A former carer of the year, who has looked after her daughter for more than 50 years, has had her regular respite care pulled — while 14 other families have been similarly affected.

Noel Baker, Irish Examiner

22nd February 2016

Mary McDonnell, 78, from Douglas in Cork, said she had suffered a “100% cut to my respite”, following notification from Cheshire Ireland that her daughter, Sinéad, could no longer be facilitated at its St Laurence centre on the outskirts of Cork City.

Sinéad has profound cerebral palsy, is doubly incontinent, has scoliosis, and has suffered a dislocated hip. She has been attending St Laurence’s for two-week respite breaks five times a year since 1997.

However, Mary learned via the family’s public health nurse the two-week respite break scheduled for prior to Christmas could not take place — with little likelihood of it resuming in 2016.

The HSE confirmed that 14 other families were also affected by the move by Cheshire Ireland to limit respite provision.

Mary asked the HSE for answers as to what she is expected to do, but said: “Nothing has come back since.”

The case is likely to turn the focus on the number of residential and respite beds available across the country.

In a letter to Cheshire Ireland in early December, the family made reference to the “untimely” with- drawal of the respite service and expressed puzzlement over why a risk assessment was not carried out in the intervening months following Sinéad’s last respite break, if there had been a change in circumstances.

In response, a senior staff member at St Laurence’s said respite was under review in light of three recent inspections carried out by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

Responding to the Irish Examiner, Mark Blake-Knox, CEO of Cheshire Ireland, said: “Sinéad McDonnell has been a respite service user in our St Laurence facility for a number of years. In recent months, her complex medical needs have become more acute and regrettably we are no longer able to meet those needs.

“We are working with the HSE to find alternative care solutions for Sinéad and we will continue to do that.”

The McDonnells do have an alternative respite break option, albeit for a much shorter period than the two- week stints offered by St Laurence’s, but Mary said it still requires a huge amount of organisation.

Referring to herself and her husband, Denis, she said: “We are both elderly and we do need a break. She knows nothing else. I have huge fears about something else out there. All parents are scared and elderly parents are very scared as no long- term residential places are open to us.”

A HSE spokesman said: “The difficulties arose following Hiqa inspections where the requirement for a number of improvements was identified.

“Cheshire Ireland are putting in place arrangements to address these issues but will find it difficult to continue to provide both respite and residential care.

“The HSE are working with other providers to make alternative arrangements for the individuals affected. We would hope to have this matter concluded within the next couple of weeks.”