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Imminent closure of Balseskin Reception Centre, Dublin

category dublin | rights and freedoms | news report author Friday July 14, 2006 18:22author by greta Report this post to the editors

Balseskin Reception Centre is a 380 bed accomodation centre for asylum seekers and their families in Finglas, north Dublin. It was purpose built some 5 years ago and has a well functioning medical unit, providing specialist health screening and medical care to the residents of the centre. However the centre is to be closed on ministerial orders, at short notice (next Friday) and without any consultation with staff in the HSE and the RIA (Reception and Integration Agency, Dept. of Justice). The 260 residents of the centre now have to be housed elsewhere. This will inevitably cause a disruption in medical care and infectious disease surveillance as no other specialist service for asylum seekers is available in Dublin city.

As also reported by the Noel Baker, Irish Examiner on 7/7/'06;

Balseskin Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, Finglass, North Dublin is to be closed on Ministerial Orders. The Centre which presently houses 260 asylum seekers is to be vacated on 21/7/'06 (next Friday) as was communicated to staff only a few days ago. The Centre has a capacity of 380 people and was purpose built some 5 years ago to receive, house and medically screen and attend to asylum seekers and their children. It is the only purpose built accomodation centre in the country and as such has a a medical unit which is staffed by a specialised and experienced medical team, including nurse/midwifes to facilitate ante natal care on site (so as to relieve the Dublin maternity hospitals).

Apparently it is now to be changed into a facility for elderly patients being discharged from hospital, who need further rehabilitation and nursing care. As the centre in its present state is of course not suitable for this type of patients (100 in total), a major and costly refurbishment is to be carried out to adapt the facilities. However this is a waste of government resources as the centre is new and purpose built only 5 years ago.

260 asylum seekers and their children now have to be housed elsewhere around the country and the RIA had to advertised for alternative accomodation. Apart from the accomodation problem, many asylum seekers are in need of follow up of their medical treatment, specialist investigations, antenatal care, health screening and vaccinations. However, apart from Balseskin there are no other Accomodation Centres in Dublin providing specialised medical care to asylum seekers.

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of the Dept. of Justice and the HSE were not consulted about the matter. The Principal Medical Officer and Senior Area Medical Officer for HSE Dublin NE were informed after the decision was made and the Director of Social Inclusion for the HSE Dublin NE is presently on annual leave and unaware of the situation.

Although the number of asylum seekers nationally has been falling over the past two years, it has now stabilised and is not dropping any further, Therefore there will be an ongoing need in Dublin and elsewhere for capacity to house and medically care for asylum seekers and their children. Balseskin, as an already existing and well functioning Reception Centre in North Dublin is therefore indispensible. Changing the use of this facility is a waste of tax payers money, apart from ignoring the needs of a vulnerable and already marginalised group of adults and children. Moreover caring and committed public servants in the HSE and the RIA can only come to the conclusion that the service they are providing is apparently of no importance to some politicians.

author by Curiouspublication date Fri Jul 14, 2006 20:56Report this post to the editors

Harney takes over the centre so as to alleviate the hospital beds crisis, but McDowell is left holding the refugee baby!

Now who's going to look good as the election approaches, and who's going to be busy dealing with the crisis of homeless asylum-seekers?

author by fikepublication date Fri Jul 14, 2006 21:18Report this post to the editors

I thought the closure of such "detention centres" would be a source of celebration.....

The comment on asylum seekers becoming homeless and wandering the streets is truly bizzare, if not just stupid.

author by Test-tubepublication date Fri Jul 14, 2006 23:09Report this post to the editors

It'll be on the election literature. Moving long term care patients out of badly needed hospital beds
and into an asylum centre. She plays the racist card very well.

the fact that hospital beds are needed due to consultant wage packets
these are upped at the same time as TD's, judges.
Nurses are wage-deprived and not allowed prescribe.
The wards are full of people drunk or stoned. The usual
lateral PD thought mechanism. Long term care patients have pension books
that money can be extracted from, the asylum seekers are dispersed, thus dealing with
community closeness and the white oldies of the wage-slave celtic cubs are re-housed.

Everything in its place.

author by mardykepublication date Sun Jul 16, 2006 01:47Report this post to the editors

(It'll be on the election literature. Moving long term care patients out of badly needed hospital beds
and into an asylum centre. She plays the racist card very well.)

I would bet, every last cent I own, it will not be on Harneys election litreature.

I would also bet, that if any blood is boiling, it is powered by abuse of the asylum system as opposed to the dismantling of the legacy of that abuse.

author by Concerned Doctorpublication date Sun Jul 16, 2006 02:06Report this post to the editors

As greta's article says, this is not a "detention centre", but a reception centre where the asylum-seekers are well-treated, including nurse/midwives who have specialised training and experience in working with asylum-seekers.

This purpose-built centre is being closed without consulting the Health Service Executive or the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) at the Dept. of Justice, and the RIA has now had to advertise to find accommodation for the centre's clients. Could you find a new place to stay at only ten days' notice?

Also, as greta says, Balseskin is the only specialist health screening service for asylum-seekers in Dublin city. Closing it will cause a disruption in the surveillance of dangerous diseases such as TB and measles, because now the asylum-seekers will be spread around the country, some of them possibly even homeless, and possibly spreading diseases that could otherwise have been treated and confined. What is bizarre and stupid is the decision, not the comment.

And, as greta also says, the refurbishment - trying to turn a purpose-built centre into something it was not designed for - is a waste of tax-payers' money.

As you clearly have not grasped the essence of the matter, I suggest you read the article again, please, fike!

author by Fikepublication date Sun Jul 16, 2006 23:04Report this post to the editors

*As greta's article says, this is not a "detention centre", but a reception centre where the asylum-seekers are well-treated, including nurse/midwives who have specialised training and experience in working with asylum-seekers. *

I was being sarcastic. To my knowledge, this is the first time this site has published an article that condemns the closure of such a facility.

*This purpose-built centre is being closed without consulting the Health Service Executive or the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) at the Dept. of Justice, and the RIA has now had to advertise to find accommodation for the centre's clients. Could you find a new place to stay at only ten days' notice?*

Well as you ask me personally, I've found new residence in 24 hours in the past.

*Also, as greta says, Balseskin is the only specialist health screening service for asylum-seekers in Dublin city. Closing it will cause a disruption in the surveillance of dangerous diseases such as TB and measles, because now the asylum-seekers will be spread around the country, some of them possibly even homeless, and possibly spreading diseases that could otherwise have been treated and confined. What is bizarre and stupid is the decision, not the comment.*

Is this line that asylum seekers come in and spread diesese borrowed from elsewhere?

*And, as greta also says, the refurbishment - trying to turn a purpose-built centre into something it was not designed for - is a waste of tax-payers' money.*

It was designed for the large numbers of pregnant "asylum seekers" predating the citizenship referendum if I recall correctly. Accordingly, taxpayers money is safe hands.

author by Concerned Doctorpublication date Mon Jul 17, 2006 14:37Report this post to the editors

My line is:
1. This wealthy nation can well afford to be good to asylum-seekers, just as other nations have been kind to Irish asylum-seekers in earlier centuries.
2. But the government should use our taxes efficiently by keeping this purpose-built reception centre open.
3. TB is prevalent among the indigenous population of Ireland, and there are intermittent outbreaks of measles. Both diseases could be eradicated if the indigenous population would avail of immunisation and treatment facilities.
4. Asylum-seekers do certainly sometimes bring infectious diseases from abroad, adding to the burden on surveillance and treatment services, and these can be treated and contained most efficiently if the specialised facilities at Balseskin are maintained.
5. To solve the beds crisis, it might be cheaper and faster to build new facilities rather than trying to modify buildings that were designed for something else. But Harney's ideological considerations may preclude her from taking the most cost-effective route.

author by Concerned Doctorpublication date Mon Jul 17, 2006 15:09Report this post to the editors

Fike wrote:
"To my knowledge, this is the first time this site has published an article that condemns the closure of such a facility."

That could be because this is the only facility of its kind in the country, and this is the first time a decision has been made to close it.

This is a reception centre, not a detention centre: a place where people are received, not detained. Most of the asylum-seekers would arrive here, undergo thorough health screening, get treated for acute disease and immunised against relevant infectious diseases, and be transferred to long-stay centres after a few days.

If Balseskin closes, asylum-seekers will in future arrive at long-stay centres without having undergone full screening for all relevant diseases, and so they may themselves become sick and/or spread infectious diseases to other people in the centre or community where they are placed.

BTW, among other facilities, Balseskin has two play therapists who spend their time working with asylum-seeking children.

Fike, your contribution to this debate can be of little value if you do do not know what Balseskin is or what services it provides.

author by Fikepublication date Mon Jul 17, 2006 17:32Report this post to the editors

I quote from the following Senate speechs on this site:

http://homepage.eircom.net/~maryhenry/debates/07apr04b.htm

*The Minister spoke briefly of women coming here to give birth and endangering themselves. He stated:

Many women are willing to risk their own lives and the lives of their children by arriving here in the late stages of pregnancy. In many cases, I have no doubt that they were operating on the misguided notion that it is in the best interests of not only themselves but of their unborn children. *

It goes on:

*This meeting was called following discussions between the Rotunda Hospital, the Department of Health and the Reception & Integration Agency where it had been agreed a new facility was required in the Balseskin Reception Centre to streamline care for asylum-seekers newly arrived in the country. The meeting was attended by Dr. Sean Daly, master of the Coombe ’omen's Hospital, Dr. Michael Geary, master of the Rotunda Hospital, officials from the Department of Health, the Department of Justice and the Reception & Integration Agency, and the Minister, Mr. Michael McDowell. Dr. Declan Keane, master in the National Maternity Hospital, was unable to attend the meeting. *

This supports my contention that Balseskin was established to confront the inordinate and dangerous rise in pregnant "asylum seekers" first and foremost. Those who were at risk of spreading diesese were a direct risk to mothers in maternity wards as opposed to some risk of spreading diesese willy nilly in public, as you claim in a manner befitting the worst pronouncements of racists.

Your contribution is of little value if you are in denial as to the primary reason that Balseskin was established.

author by Concerned Doctorpublication date Tue Jul 18, 2006 22:40Report this post to the editors

Thanks for your comments, Fike. Very entertaining.

From the speech you quote, I note that the meeting you refer to was held on 18 October, 2002.

Following that meeting, an outreach antenatal clinic, staffed by medical, nursing and clerical personnel from the Rotunda hospital, was established at Balseskin in November 2002.
http://tinyurl.com/qlbay

However, the centre itself was founded in December 2001.

So I can just imagine the discussion at the meeting you quote. Michael McDowell, in a sudden flash of compassionate insight, on 18 October 2002, suddenly bursts out:
"Listen, people! I place such urgent importance on this service for pregnant asylum-seekers that I propose we establish it retrospectively. We need to open this place like LAST YEAR!"

Here's some more information from a report by the Northern Area Health Board:

Balseskin Reception Nursing Service
The Balseskin Reception Centre provides a direct health service for asylum families who are awaiting the result of their applications to remain in the State. The service provided in Balseskin emulates Objective 6 of the Regional Child Care Framework in making services available on the basis of need, regardless of location, ethnic or social or other status.

[Read closely: regardless of ethnic status.]

Families with school going children spend over four months at the centre. These children are not attending local national schools, due to inability to facilitate their enrolment, arising from the uncertainty of their stay.
The Public Health Nursing Service supports a play programme for children at Balseskin, with two whole time equivalent Play Therapists. ... The children are in groups of 4-7 years and 7 years upwards. ...

http://hsenorthernarea.ie/docs/Child_Report_Txt.pdf

Fike, I work as a doctor providing medical care for people from all over, including refugees and asylum-seekers, immigrants and Irish people, middle class, working class, Travellers, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and whoever else might turn up.

And, as somebody whose profession compels me to treat everybody to the best of my ability, according to their needs, I think Balseskin should continue to provide integrated health screening and treatment services to asylum-seekers, including pregnant women, regardless of race or class.

How about you?

author by Fikepublication date Wed Jul 19, 2006 11:07Report this post to the editors

*Following that meeting, an outreach antenatal clinic, staffed by medical, nursing and clerical personnel from the Rotunda hospital, was established at Balseskin in November 2002.

However, the centre itself was founded in December 2001. *

So Doc, what was the centre established for originally?

Mind reading?

I understand you concern for your job, please don't feel you have to transform your concern into some sort of extraordinary humanitarian gesture.

I also understand your passion to treat all and treat equally. Not to do so would in fact cost you your job, would it not?

I'm sure you do it well and are very well paid for it out of taxpayers money.

Bottom line is that Balseskin's primary purpose for the last half decade was to cater for pregnant asylum seekers until the numbers dramatically dropped following the citizenship referendum.

It will now care for the elderly.

Sure it wasnt built for that but your house was probably not built specifically for you either.

Just because it catered for asylum seekers at one point, does not mean it is an article of faith that it continues to do so.

That's not to say I am not concerned to some degree. As you are a Doctor with some experience in this area, would you like to divulge what specific dieseses asylum seekers spreading in Ireland as per your earlier claims and what dieseses we are now exposed to thanks to the closure of Balseskin (to asylum seekers)?

author by Concerned Doctorpublication date Wed Jul 19, 2006 21:50Report this post to the editors

Heh, Fike.

For the benefit of those who might not have read the previous HSE report, I will repeat an excerpt, with a few capitals for emphasis:
The Balseskin Reception Centre provides a direct health service for asylum FAMILIES ... The children are in groups of 4-7 years and 7 YEARS UPWARDS. ...
http://hsenorthernarea.ie/docs/Child_Report_Txt.pdf

For obvious reasons, none of these children aged over seven years can have been born at the centre.

Also, the reason the centre was running down from its full capacity of 380 residents to only 260 in recent weeks was not the citizenship referendum but an outbreak of chickenpox.

This meant that the Centre was only admitting single men in recent weeks. (And, to the best of my knowledge, none of these men was demanding antenatal services.)

But I won't waste too much time arguing with you, as your spurious assertions tend to distract from the key issue:
Balseskin is a well-running public health service that is being disrupted in an irresponsible, undemocratic and dictatorial way by a Minister for Health who is making underhand, behind-the-scenes arrangements without consultation with relevant stakeholders, while key HSE and RIA staff are on annual leave: including specifically the Director of Public Health Nursing and the Director of Social Inclusion.

author by Fikepublication date Wed Jul 19, 2006 23:02Report this post to the editors

Hi Doc,

I have no interest in prolonging this topic beyond this post.

Yours stating: "Balseskin is a well-running public health service that is being disrupted in an irresponsible, undemocratic and dictatorial way by a Minister for Health who is making underhand, behind-the-scenes arrangements without consultation with relevant stakeholders,"

Continues on with names of all but the the actual relevant stakeholders; the taxpayers.

I don't accept the taxpayer is suffering from the removal of one aspect of the crazy expenditure on the badly abused asylum system.

I reiterate my point that the emphasis has shifted on what Balseskin should be utilised as and the latest shift has seen it wanting as your post on "play therapists" aptly proves.

I am surprised that the elderly of this country, black, white, asian whatever, in your opinion, are not just as deserving of this facility, if not more, than servicing the needs of - mostly - abusive applicants for asylum.

You are, after all, the one that emphasised the non-prejudicial ethos of your profession.

Either way, it's closing and neither of us will change that.

author by Concerned Doctorpublication date Fri Jul 21, 2006 01:03Report this post to the editors

Thanks for your final comments, Fike. That may be the best kind of comments you could make. :-)

I am dismayed at your suggestion that the elderly should not get the facilities they deserve. They deserve their own purpose-built facilities, in Dublin and around the country.

While I don't think it was feasible for the ministers to hold a public meeting in Croke Park to consult some of the taxpayers themselves, they could well have consulted the taxpayers' representatives in the Dáil before going on holiday.

And they could have issued a press release on www.dohc.ie and/or www.justice.ie.

But perhaps Harney and McDowell decided to avoid publicity because they knew that most of the taxpayers would have been outraged at the proposal?

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