The lack of a clear reason as to why the Knocknacarra Alzheimer’s Service was shut down, and no answers forthcoming as to whether it will be reinstated, have been described as "frustrating" by politicians.
Independent city councillor Donal Lyons and Independent Galway West TD, Noel Grealish, have written to the CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Pat McLoughlin, seeking a meeting to discuss the situation, and to press for the service's reinstatement in the area.
The Knocknacarra Alzheimer’s Service, provided by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, had been operating in rooms at the Joyce’s shopping centre for a decade until closing earlier this year. Following this, families of those availing of the service, were offered the alternative of attending a similar centre based in Merlin Park Hospital.
According to Cllr Lyons many families found the journey across the city, "negated the value of the service" and have subsequently "opted out entirely". “It was a great boost for families that they could get a break for a few hours when it was operating in Knocknacarra," he said, "but having to spend maybe half an hour travelling across to Merlin Park and the same back to Knocknacarra, then repeating the journey later in the day meant they were two hours in the car, it just wasn’t worth it."
'It’s vital for the people living with Alzheimers in Knocknacarra that we get this much needed service restored to the community' - Dep Noel Grealish
Cllr Lyons also said his attempts to establish the reasons behind the closure of the Knocknacarra centre have "hit a brick wall". He said: "It is frustrating that nobody can tell us clearly why this service was pulled - especially when cost was not an issue."
The service had originally been provided for seven years at Joyce’s community rooms under contract with the HSE, but when funding became an issue, the rooms were provided free of charge to the Alzheimer Society of Ireland.
The reason given for the closure at the time was that a health and safety audit had been carried out by the HSE and it had deemed the rooms "unsuitable". However the HSE refuted this in a letter to Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish. The HSE said that operational elements such as premises were a matter for the voluntary organisation running the service, and compliance with health and safety requirements was a matter for the voluntary organisation.
Cllr Lyons understands that the use of the rooms will continue free of charge if the service can be reinstated, and that the management have agreed to address any health and safety issues which might be outstanding.
Dep Grealish and Cllr Lyons are now waiting a reply from a letter they sent in July to Pat McLoughlin, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, seeking a meeting with him. “It’s vital for the people living with Alzheimers in Knocknacarra that we get this much needed service restored to the community," said Dep Grealish, "and provide respite for families caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We need answers now and I will continue to press for them."