Deputy Catherine Connolly has said that she very much welcomes the confirmation from HSE West that the catering facilities at St Francis Home, Newcastle will not be outsourced to a private company. This facility has been an integral part of the day centre service for many years providing wholesome and nutritious meals to those attending the day centre. In addition, it also provides meals for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) at Merlin Park. Indeed, it has been the recipient of awards for the quality of the food it produces and in its most recent Annual Inspection Report the Mental Health Commission highlighted that “residents were provided with a variety of wholesome and nutritious…food was properly prepared and comprised of servings from different food groups as per the Food Pyramid.”
Notwithstanding this record and the ringing endorsement of the Mental Health Commission, a decision was made in November by HSE management to close this wonderful facility and to outsource the service. Upon receiving this information, Deputy Connolly raised the issue as a matter of urgency on the floor of the Dáil on 15 December 2021 with Minister Anne Rabbitte who committed to organising an urgent meeting with the HSE. That meeting took place, said Deputy Connolly, on Tuesday 18 January 2022, with both Minister Rabbitte and Minister Butler and senior management from the HSE in attendance.
Among other issues, HSE management clarified that extra clinical space was needed at St Francis home to facilitate additional staff in primary care which of itself is a positive development, said Deputy Connolly. However, what was never acceptable, said Deputy Connolly, was the closure of an essential service to facilitate the solution of a temporary accommodation problem. The confirmation of a change of mind in this regard is very welcome. It is now proposed that the catering services will remain in-house although it will be provided from a site in Merlin Park adjacent to CAHMS.
It is proposed that the service will be operational from February 2022 and that the catering staff from St Francis will relocate there. The ongoing provision of meals to the people who use the day centre in St Francis home by this in-house catering service is vital, said Deputy Connolly. In this regard, Deputy Connolly is seeking further clarification from HSE West that this, in fact, will be the position.