I thank the Chair for affording me the opportunity to raise this disturbing case here tonight. For the purpose of the debate I will call my client, Gerry. Gerry is suffering from motor neurone disease or cerebellar ataxia. This is a degeneration of the nerve cells in the spinal cord which affects muscular movements. For the past three years Gerry has been residing in York House which is run by the Salvation Army. I compliment the staff of York House for what they have done up to now for Gerry but the administration of York House would be the first to admit that it is not a hospital, that it is basically a direct access hostel for the homeless of Dublin.
Gerry needs medical attention and this has been acknowledged by the staff of York House. This is well known to his family and friends some of whom are here tonight listening to this debate. In York House there are two care assistants during the day but there is no cover during the night with the exception of a night porter. What would happen to Gerry if he required assistance during the night? Gerry is getting progressively worse. I have witnessed this over the past two years. In recent weeks I went to York House to visit Gerry. I look for Gerry in the care room and there he sits in the corner huddled on a chair. He cannot speak and his only diversion is the television. Gerry needs a straw to feed; he cannot co-ordinate his movements; he cannot walk without an aid. Imagine trying to get to the first or second floor dormitory in that condition. Gerry has an active mind and the facilities in the hostel are totally unacceptable to him. He requires occupational therapy and physical therapy if he is to retain any dignity in life.
In recent years I have made repeated representations, as have his family, to the EHB and to the Minister to provide long term care for him. Gerry needs a long term facility that will allow him to be active and in order to get medical care. I know there are many hundreds and perhaps thousands of people like Gerry in the country who need this care. Caring members of his family and friends have tried everything to get long term care for Gerry. They are here tonight to hear the Minister confirm that he acknowledges the problem and that there is a long term facility available so that a person like Gerry can have dignity for as long as he lives.
I hope the Minister will be able to give that confirmation tonight. I ask the Minister, the Eastern Health Board and the Department to give this case the priority it deserves. I hope the efforts of the people who are working on behalf of Gerry who cannot represent himself will come to something and that the Minister will provide a solution tonight.