Dan Connaughton is a resident at the Rosalie Unit in Castlerea. He’ll be 70-years-old next June. Dan has suffered from psychiatric illness since the age of 29 but up until 13 years ago was able to live independently at home. He received a kidney transplant two years ago, at the third time of asking, and since then has been aided in his recovery by the staff at the Rosalie Unit, where his loved ones say he feels safe and “at home”. Family members visit him regularly at the Rosalie Unit throughout the week and even take him out for a few hours to places like Benny’s Deli for food or a cup of tea. According to his loved ones, Dan has never complained about his lot in life and is doted on by his nieces and nephews who are understandably worried about their uncle’s future. This is Dan’s story as told by his sister Anita with the help of his brother-in-law Bernie Flanagan to Dan Dooner earlier this week…
“Here we are again fighting the same fight just two and a half years after we were promised by Minister Kathleen Lynch that the Rosalie Unit would not close and would also be part of mental health services in Roscommon into the future. There was no engagement with us and the first we heard of it was in the local media and that was thanks to Senator Maura Hopkins. Everybody’s very concerned, very upset and we’re outraged. My brother is fully aware of what’s going on and he’s very worried and upset and so too are all the families of the residents. It’s not fair.
“How dare Tony Canavan (of HSE) come in and tell us what’s best for our family members when he doesn’t know them. The Rosalie Unit is a brilliant unit staffed by professional people who are very caring. They’ve known our family members for years and they know how to support them, both with psychiatric and medical needs. This care cannot be catered for in private nursing homes. Private nursing homes are run as a business and have to make a profit and patients wouldn’t get the psychiatric support they need.
“We have 2,000 people in Roscommon with Alzheimer’s or related illnesses and we have 21 beds empty in Castlerea and we know for a fact that people have been turned away. When I pressed Tony Canavan about this – on who had stopped taking the admissions – he blamed himself first, then the consultants and then said that it was HSE policy. Policy doesn’t take into consideration people’s conditions. There’s a massive disconnect between the HSE and the people on the ground.
“My brother would have had psychiatric problems from the age of about 29 but he lived at home up until 13 years when he got seriously ill and he ended up in hospital for a period of time before he moved into hostel-like accommodation here in Castlerea. He lived there for nine years and then when his condition deteriorated further he moved to the Rosalie Unit, which seemed like a natural progression.
“A unit like the Rosalie Unit will always be needed and we want our loved ones kept in our area. Why should they go to Ballinasloe or Castlebar? There’s no transport around here for people. Often it’s elderly couples (who are affected), how are they supposed to get to see their loved ones? Family visits are so important for those residents. If we were gone away for a few days or a week my brother Dan would miss us terribly.
“They need to lift the embargo at the Rosalie Unit, not close it all together. This is a home away from home for patients and there is a a lovely community spirit built up there among staff, patients and visitors. They have activities and we can visit Dan and take him out for a coffee or food but most importantly they are getting the psychiatric care that they need. What the staff know about the residents; their little ways and knowing how to calm them down, that’s invaluable.
“If you were to move my brother to a different environment you would threaten his recovery. He got a kidney transplant two years ago, Christmas night we were called and the staff in Rosalie were a wonderful support to him. They had to liaise with the Beaumont Hospital with University Hospital Galway and with Merlin and also provide psychiatric and medical support as he recovered. I can’t stress how fantastic they were. His recovery was much better because he was back where he belonged and where he felt safe.
“When my brother goes to a strange environment, he spends most of his time apologising for himself. He’s apologising because he has this illness and he feels he’s a burden on the staff.
“If he were moved to somewhere like Ballinasloe where we could only manage one visit a week – and there are family members who might not be able to get there even once a week – it would be detrimental to Dan’s health. It would hasten the mental illness and he would deteriorate rapidly. The last week alone and the worry it has caused has really affected him”.