Limerick father ‘bitterly disappointed’ over his daughter’s treatment

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald


Limerick father ‘bitterly disappointed’ over his daughter’s treatment

A COUNTY Limerick father has expressed “bitter disappointment” over the complete silence from the State, healthcare providers and local charities since an “essential service” for his special needs daughter was shut down due to Covid-19 restrictions.

And Tony Noonan who has raised in the region of €250k for charities through his annual Christmas lights display says his “eyes have been opened”  that none of them “even knocked on the door to know if I wanted a pound of butter or to ask how we are keeping.”

“I don’t know if the lights will ever again shine in Templeglantine,” Mr Noonan told the Limerick Leader this week.

Mr Noonan’s daughter Siobhan, 39, who has the rare genetic neurological disorder Rett syndrome, was one of three people who had been attending the Brothers of Charity day services in Foynes where 14 other people have remained in residential care.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the day service closed on March 13. Siobhan had been attending the service for around 15 years, five days a week.

“It’s an emergency, it has to be opened,” said Mr Noonan of the day service.

He is “bitterly disappointed” that the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced in March the closure of most operations apart from essential services and didn’t deem services like those availed of by Siobhan as “essential”.

“It was an essential service,” Mr Noonan declared. 

“Then for 12 weeks we had no contact from our service provider, no phone call. Was Siobhan dead? Was I dead? No contact. They have a duty of care to my daughter. It’s written into their care plan that they contact the family once a week, Covid or no Covid. But this did not happen.

“No compassion shown. Their logo is love and respect but they didn’t show it to us.”

The Brothers of Charity facility in Foynes, he says, is “a massive building so there is no problem with social distancing or flattening the curve inside there”.

Siobhan, he says, is non-verbal and needs 24/7 care. 

“When Siobhan was born 39 years ago we could have got the key of the cell and thrown her into residential care which would have cost millions and millions and millions but we, being the type of people we are, didn’t do that. I’m 64 and my wife Hannah is 67. Hannah is her full-time carer but she only gets half carer’s allowance due to drawing another State pension. I’m an unpaid carer. I gave up my job 20 years ago to look after my daughter with Hannah. I was a sales rep for Barry’s Tea.

“This is the first time we’ve put Siobhan on TV. We’ve had plenty of chances with our Christmas lights but we never did. This was so urgent we had to do it. We’ve no break now.”

Mr Noonan feels very let down that the charities he has supported to the tune of around €250k through his Christmas lights display haven’t made any contact with him during his own time of need, even if it was to just make a call.

“I’m not making a big issue of this but for over 20 years I’ve done the Christmas lights for charity, raising around €250k and I’m very, very disappointed that none of them even knocked on the door to know if I wanted a pound of butter or to ask how we are keeping. We always looked after the Brothers. It has opened my eyes.

“We have devoted our life to our daughter. The only person who has put his shoulder to the wheel in terms of public representatives is Cllr Liam Galvin,” he said. 

 When contacted this week a spokesperson for the HSE issued a statement saying the HSE cannot comment on individual cases.

“The decision to close day services was in line with NPHET’s guidance in relation to Covid-19 and this was to protect service users and staff during the lockdown period. The HSE is very aware of the pressures and challenges being experienced by people with disabilities and their families who have been impacted by the closure of day services over the past number of months,” the HSE statement read.

“The HSE both nationally and locally have been working very closely with all service providers providing day services in developing a service restoration plan in line with national public health guidance which would see day services resume at some level by 1st September 2020,” the statement continued.

“The reopening of services will commence on a phased basis with communication with all families taking place during the month of August 2020 with a view to the recommencement of a level of service from 1st September 2020,” the statement concluded.