The chairman of Ennis Community Development Project has expressed deep regret following the closure of a Traveller Primary Health Care Project.

According to Dermot Hayes, the project has closed after 17 years when Ennis CDP failed to secure on-going funding for a project manager and programme costs. The Primary Health Care Project (PHCP), a health programme for the Traveller community, had been funded by the HSE since 2008.

Before it closed the PHCP had gainfully employed seven part-time community health workers, a part-time administrator and a full time coordinator.  According to Dermot Hayes the delivery of services was very effective in  disseminating vital information directly to the Traveller community and linking people to other mainstream services.

In addition, staff members had an opportunity to develop their skills and a number successfully completed relevant training at LIT. “The work of the PHCP project has been invaluable. Part of the service to support better health practices included outreach to various accommodation settings in support of Travellers throughout the county,” said Dermot Hayes.

Recalling a study of Traveller health published in 2010, he said it was noted that the suicide rates for Traveller men are seven times higher than in the wider community while levels for Traveller women are also significantly higher.  “Clare has known this heart-break too well,” said Mr Hayes who pointed out that the project’s health care team had been effective in helping support people in crisis.

Mr Hayes said that the board of Ennis CDP had sought a new host for the PHCP to ensure continuity of employment and delivery of this valuable service.  A number of community organisations were approached, one was successful and a process began with the Clare Local Development Company for the transition.  A period of 5 months intense work was undertaken but on May 26th it was learned that the transfer was not going ahead.

Describing this as a great disappointment, Dermot Hayes said Ennis CDP were left with no option but to make the nine PHCP staff redundant with immediate effect. He added, “The CDP board would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all who assisted in the vigilant work towards the transfer and in the challenging process of closure.  We also wish to thank the HSE for making possible the full closure payments to all the Primary Health Care Personnel.”

Staff will receive one month’s wages in lieu of notice, plus accrued monetary entitlements. Dermot Hayes commented, “It’s a sad day to see the suspension of the PHCP programme as there is so much work to be done to support better health outcomes for the Traveller community here.  It is a suspension for the time being; The CDP and all others concerned hope a new host will be found quickly and that this programme will be up and running, with the staff re-employed and doing their invaluable work again in County Clare, very soon.”