A public protest is taking place outside the Dáil later today (Thursday), as Ireland’s largest dementia care home, St Joseph’s, faces closure over a funding crisis.

St Joseph’s in Shankill, managed by St John of God Hospital, has 60 live-in residents, provides 120 places per week in its day-care service, and also has two respite beds.

Last week, families and their 100 staff members received a letter from the management of St Joseph’s saying that the service is operating at a great financial loss, and will be forced to close its day-care service at the end of the year, and wind down its residential service, unless more public funding can be secured.

In the letter, seen by Dublin Gazette, Chief Executive Emma Balmaine, explained: “Our day care rate, set by the HSE has not increased since 2006. As you can imagine over the last 13 years many costs have increased significantly, in particular, insurance and energy costs.

“As recently as mid-October, we have been informed by the HSE that they have no available funding to commit at this time to support the day care deficit.

“The only likely option, in the absence of funding, is that we will have to advise the HSE that we cannot continue and will have to close day care at the end of 2019.

“In the absence of adequate funding, I regret to say that the outlook for St Josephs is bleak.”

The letter went on to say that St John of God Hospital has covered significant shortfalls for several years to the tune of €7m, but another €1.2m is needed.

Rosaline Larkin

Sean Tresson’s mother, Rosaline Larkin (76), from Shankill, has been a user of St Joseph’s day-care service for about a year.

Sean, 41, told Dublin Gazette that his mam has late stage dementia, and since she has been going to St Joseph’s, the change in her is her is immense.

“It’s been unbelievable for mam. When she started developing into the late stages of dementia, she wouldn’t go out anywhere. She was very unsure because she’d get lost and was getting very confused, and she was just scared.

“The work [St Joseph’s] have done has just really brought her on. She’s much healthier and she’s much, much happier.

“Mam is totally dependent on it. She loves it. It would be an absolute tragedy, not for just herself, but the other service users [if it closed].”

Sean Tresson with his mother Rosaline Larkin and daughter Molli

He added: “It’s the peace of mind. We were constantly worrying about mam. I know mam’s getting the best care. I know she’s happy. Her health has improved. It really has been fantastic for us all.

“We could be looking at mam back sitting in the sitting-room again [if it closed]. It’s uncertainty and it’s heart-breaking. It’s not fair on [mam].”

People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett told Dublin Gazette that the closure of the home would be a “total disaster” for service users and is “demanding” government to commit “necessary funds”.

“The closure would be completely unthinkable and a total disaster for dementia suffers and their families, and it simply cannot be allowed to happen.  

“What we need is the government and the HSE to commit the funds necessary to meet the high dependency needs of many of the residents and service users.

“St Joseph’s can’t survive without additional funding, which recognises particularly the need of high dependency suffers.”

Shankill Councillor Hugh Lewis (PBP) said: “The community has come together rapidly over the past week, and will not allow the crucial and respected services delivered at St. Josephs be diminished in any sense. We collectively call upon the government to immediately provide the funding to allow the staff at St. Josephs plan their services securely into the future.”

Minister for Health, Simon Harris told Dublin Gazette: “The doors are not going to close… The HSE is intensively engaging to try agree additional funding for that to keep it open. And the second part in relation to the residential place is the price is negotiated through the NTPF. This facility will not close… I strongly reiterate my encouragement to St. Joseph’s to continue to engage fully with those established processes.”

The HSE told Dublin Gazette: “The HSE contracts for approximately 25 Day Care places per day at St Joseph’s, Shankill and this is a very valuable service for those who attend. The HSE has been engaged with the St  John of God Order in relation to costs associated with this service and those engagements are on-going.

“The HSE will continue to engage intensively with the Order in the coming week to resolve outstanding issues in relation to the day care service so as to avoid disruption to vulnerable service users.

“The HSE has no role in relation to the agreement of costs relating to the Long Term Care beds at St Joseph’s as this is a function of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).”

A public meeting was held last Friday, November 8, at the Martello Hotel, Bray. Addressing the crowd, Chief Executive Emma Balmaine said that she wrote to the Minister for Health about this in March 2017 getting “no confirmation of on-going sufficient funding.”

“It is the State’s responsibility to provide proper care and service for people living with dementia. We cannot continue if it means finding €1m plus every year,” said Ms Balmaine.

She added that they are calling on a deed of agreement with the NTPF for their residential service, and a service level agreement with the HSE for their day care service.

The public protest is taking place today, Thursday November 14, at the Dáil at 12 noon.