Families of adults with disabilities left to ask: Is Government neglecting them?
Shadow Health Minister Katherine Michelmore has called for answers over the plight of adults with disabilities whose Government day care facility is “completely inadequate” for their needs.
The Orange Valley Centre for adults with mental and physical challenges was moved from its original site on Parson’s Lane, Devonshire, to a temporary building at the Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute (MWI) in 2003.
Government said the move was only temporary, and was necessary to make way for the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy for children with special needs.
The then Minister of Health, Patrice Minors, said she hoped a permanent home could be found within three months.
Eight years later, the facility, which has 22 clients, is still housed in the same temporary building.
Dr Michelmore has now taken up the cause on behalf of parents who have expressed concerns to her. She said: “I’ve not heard any of the parents complain about the level of dedication of the staff but the facility is completely inadequate. It struggles with its current limitations on space and facilities.”
She added: “There is no storage space for therapeutic equipment, a kitchen which is grossly inadequate for the teaching of cooking skills and no provision of services such as physical, occupational and speech therapy for clients.
“There is limited outdoor space for physical activity, a lack of a proper office for the administrator and no staff facilities.”
Dr Michelmore is also concerned the centre could soon come under increasing pressure.
“There is a significant number of individuals expected to be leaving the remit of the educational services special needs programme over the coming years, and no anticipated places at Orange Valley to be able to accept them,” she said.
Ursula Dunlop’s late daughter, Renee Dianna Dunlop, attended the centre for 36 years until she died, aged 40, in January. Renee had mobility issues and was deaf and unable to speak.
Ms Dunlop, from Devonshire, described the current facility as a “dump” and said: “It is a sad state of affairs that these individuals have to be stuck in the climate that they are in. It’s too small.
“My greatest concern is why there is such a stigma attached to disabled and physically challenged people.”
She added: “I want them to be removed from the dump that Patrice Minors put them in.”
Another concerned mother, who asked not to be identified, said: “Here we are eight years later languishing in this inadequate facility while Government has put our needs on the back burner.
“Our clients are victims of a Government who appears to have forgotten about them; they have no voice.
“It saddens me that their vulnerability is at the mercy of an administration that has forgotten about them. Is that why Government continuously ignores their plight?”
Dr Michelmore wrote to Minister of Health Zane DeSilva on behalf of the parents on September 14, after visiting the centre to see it for herself.
In the letter, she wrote: “I would like to officially request an explanation as to the failure to relocate the Orange Valley Centre, almost eight years after it was ‘temporarily’ relocated from Parson’s Lane, in Devonshire to the MWI site.
“Minister Patrice Minors at the time gave a commitment to find a permanent location for the Orange Valley Centre clients. As Shadow Health Minister, I wish to give you the opportunity to formally respond to this matter.”
Dr Michelmore asked the Minister for a reply about the “urgent and pressing issue which requires a prompt resolution” by today.
However, she said no response was forthcoming by press time last night. Mr DeSilva has visited the facility himself on two occasions, and parents have also contacted him directly to express their concerns.
He was invited to comment on the issues raised in this article, and a response that came back from a Ministry of Health spokeswoman stated: “The Ministry of Health is aware of the space constraints at the Orange Valley Centre and has asked the Ministry of Government Estates and Information Services to assist with detailing the space requirements for the facility and searching for an alternative site.
“The Ministry of Health has also engaged in discussions with the Bermuda Hospitals Board who are assisting. However, space is not the only issue.
“In order to accept more clients, we would need to hire more staff, and this creates additional challenges. The issue is very much on our agenda and we are working diligently to find a solution.”
Dr Michelmore said of the response: “Government has again failed to provide any explanation as to the unacceptable delay over the last eight years, and has failed to provide the parents with any concrete information as to sites under consideration or as to an expected timeline for relocation.
“This statement simply acknowledges that there is a problem. No one has accepted responsibility and there have been no solutions identified.”
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