December 4, 2008
by FIONA GARTLAND
MINISTER OF State for Mental Health John Moloney has said he will announce details of a programme in January to sell off 12 psychiatric hospitals.
At the launch yesterday of An Intellectual Disability Supplement to the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing , at Trinity College School of Nursing and Midwifery, the Minister said he would name the first of the hospitals he intended to sell in the new year. The money raised would help fund the 2006 Government mental health plan, he said.
He expected the properties would realise "somewhere approaching €800 million" and he was due to get a detailed report of asset values this month.
Discussions around the sale of the properties had been ongoing since 2006. It had been reported that the 70-acre St Ita's Hospital in Portrane, Co Dublin, would be one of the first to be sold and, at the time, it alone was valued at €800 million.
Mr Moloney said he recognised that people were having doubts about the possibility of delivering on the mental health plan. He would clarify what had been done and what he intended to do in January. He added that he had been given a commitment by HSE chief executive Prof Brendan Drumm and by Minister for Health Mary Harney that all money raised from the sale of psychiatric facilities would be ring-fenced for mental health services in the region where the facility was based.
He would also fight to ensure that funding for the Trinity study on ageing in people with intellectual disability was continued. The 10-year study involves 800 people with intellectual disabilities aged 40 and older and will look at people's health, social, economic, environmental and psychological status as they age. It has so far only secured funding for three years.
TCD's Prof Mary McCarron, principal investigator of the study, said the study was the first of its kind in Europe. It was a step towards building evidence on which to base policies in areas concerning older people with intellectual disability. Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly said the Government had been too sluggish to move when the property market was strong.