Huge numbers of service users and staff turned out to see Professor Brendan Drumm, CEO of the Health Service Executive, open the new extension to the Springfield Centre on a crisp Friday morning last, November 28.
The Springfield Centre was designed to place emphasis on sharing resources, skills, knowledge and expertise through services delivered by a number of agencies that work in partnership with the HSE.
It combines work, education and leisure pursuits with assessment, rehabilitation and care needs for its service users with physical or sensory disabilities.
Professor Drumm opened the new extension at the Springfield Centre by saying he was delighted to be there and that he knew Mullingar very well from his days as a student, when he lodged in the gatehouse of Mullingar Hospital.
Talking about disability, Professor Drumm said it was something he had a lot of experience in dealing with, and the amount of optimism displayed that morning at the centre, was outstanding.
'In terms of disability, it was most fascinating to meet so many people who have acquired disabilities as against people who have been born with disabilities, in terms of the optimism people display,' he said.
'From my own background, I would have a lot of experience with dealing with people with disabilities.
I suppose the biggest challenge when you are dealing with people with disabilities historically was the stand-off challenge, where people always crossed the street because people didn"t know what to say to you, and you were looked as so different.
Saying that people have come a long way since then, he felt it was important to empower those with a disability, and that at the Springfield Centre, that"s exactly what the focus is on.
'Developments like this are hugely important in terms of bringing people with disabilities into the front line by encouraging people to take responsibility for their own services.
'We"ve seen huge changes in the last twenty years. I think that the focus going forward is in empowering people themselves to take control of the resources that come into play.
'I was asking people here about the consumer panel that"s in place,' continued Professor Drumm, 'and the problem with consumer panels to be honest with you, is being in the position to be able challenge the system to the degree that it needs to be challenged,' he said.
'We really have to find ourselves in a position where we as managers or organisers of the system do not feel that it"s unfair, threatening or negative for somebody to challenge us what we are actually doing with the resources we have. And to be honest with you, that challenge has to come from those of you who actually use the service.'
Professor Drumm finished up by saying that huge progress had been made with the formation of the Springfield Centre.
'I would just finish by saying that it"s a great step forward from where you"ve come from, there has been a massive input here from so many people, from construction right through to the dedication of the people on the ground, and the interest is huge. But the real proof of all of these structures is how we deliver and how in challenging times we actually continue to improve rather than fall back.
'Our transformation programme in terms of moving health services to a different era is going to continue irrespective of the economic challenge, because we don"t believe it should be stopped by that.
Joseph Ruane, local health manager for the HSE in Longford/Westmeath also spoke at the opening, and made note of one person in particular, who was not at the launch, but who had worked hard to make the extension come to fruition. He was talking about Mr. Brendan Colleary, retired technical services officer for the HSE for the midlands, whom Mr. Ruane attributed the building to:
'He maintains it"s the most efficient and effective use of resources of any building ever created within the Health Service Executive, and I"m sure as people go around the building, they can see his innovative approach and his creativity, and the fact that he listened to the needs of the staff and service users in the building, and I think that should be formally acknowledged,' said Mr. Ruane.