Jersey’s deaf and hearing impaired community are calling for guarantees to be made that a specialist support centre stays in St. Helier.
The ‘one-stop’ Hearing Resource Centre is currently due for imminent demolition, and its services moved to Les Quennevais.
It comes as plans for the new hospital at Overdale will see a number of current services on the site moved to the old school at Les Quennevais for five years.
While many service users are willing to accept a temporary relocation, they want long-term guarantees that it will return to being a drop-in centre at the heart of the island, rather than remaining out West.
A spokesperson for Earsay, a charity which supports Jersey's hearing impaired children, young people and their families, said the centre and its location is really important for those within their community.
Pictured: The centre is currently due to move to Les Quennevais for five years, though there has been no confirmation for where it will go afterwards.
Explaining its importance, they highlighted "...its courses, its meetings, equipment trials, hearing tests - there's also a library for deaf people and there's always someone there who can help people who have an issue and they don't want to go to the hospital or they can't get an appointment at the hospital."
They also noted that individuals were able to "just walk into the centre" without an appointment should they need a service such as hearing aid repair.
Discussing the current concerns, she said: "The question is not whether it's going to Les Quennevais or not because all services are moving to Les Quennevais for five years, so there's no question about that, that is going to happen.
"But after five years, it needs to move back to St. Helier, it needs to be in St. Helier so it's easily accessible for people all over the island not just people who live in the West," pointing out the amount of elderly members of the community living in town.
She expressed concern that "there are so many people who would need to go on the bus, travel all the way out to St. Brelade, then go on a bus back... if you're working you have to fit that in, you can't just fit it in your lunch break, you have to go out of work.
"It's just really out of the question for something to be far east or far west, it needs to be centralised, so that everybody can access it and easily access it."
She added: "If the States of Jersey want things to be privately funded and they want help from private, then they also can't just rip it down when they feel like it - at least they need to give something in its place and it needs to be properly in its place, not just somewhere on the island."
Islander Peter Le Feuvre has now launched a petition to help protect the centre's central location.
"Hearing Resource Centre services improve the quality of life of islanders and reduce the health burden elsewhere," he wrote.
"It is an accessible service in St Helier. It was privately funded in 1995 via extensive dDeaf Community fundraising and support from Citibank. It needs to stay in St Helier.
"There are approximately 6,000 regular HRC clients and 1,100 new people per year would benefit from hearing equipment/support... If services are not easily accessible to all Islanders then the physical and mental health of some people will suffer."
Pointing to a survey conducted by the Deaf Partnership Board, he added: "A forced move of the HRC to Les Quennevais is imminent (and with fewer rooms) because of the new Hospital Project. The majority of users want an HRC building to stay in St. Helier."
Disability charity Enable Jersey has given its support to the petition, with the team remarking that the centre is "such an important place for many people who are deaf, hard of hearing or just need to pop in for advice and a hearing test."
In response to queries from Express, a Government spokesperson said: "The Hearing Resource Centre will be moved to the Former Les Quennevais School as part of the Our Hospital Project, given the need to vacate the Overdale site in order to build the new hospital.
"The Senior Clinical staff within the Audiology Team have been involved in the design and layout of their new space within the new facility and continue to work regularly with the project team, ensuring that their needs are met and that what they have is in line with that they use at Overdale currently.
"In addition to the space that the team currently have, they will also have dedicated office space, away from the clinical area, rather than working as they currently do in clinical space. The new space will offer an improved environment for both the people who use the HRC and the people who work there."
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