Thursday, 3 June 2021
Mental Health During and Post Covid-19: Statements
Colm Burke (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
I thank the Minister of State for the work she and her Department are doing in dealing with the whole challenge around mental health services. It is important to pay tribute to all the staff in all our facilities in the State for their dedication and commitment during this particularly difficult time due to Covid-19, and their ongoing work in dealing with the new demands.
We are coming from a situation where over the period from 2012 to 2020, the budget for mental health increased by 46%. It shows that we were coming from a very low base.
A lot of work is still to be done in this area. The number of people working in this area has increased, with more than 10,400 whole-time equivalents now. It needs supports and the increase in staff needs to continue. The CAMHS programme is extremely important in dealing with young people. It is also about having a team effort. If one part of the team is missing, it is very difficult to operate. In Cork, one element of a CAMHS team was missing and young people were not able to gain access to the care they needed.
In 2018 and 2019, a number of facilities were identified by the Mental Health Commission as having major challenges. These were St. Loman's in Mullingar, a facility in Drogheda and Carraig Mór in Cork. What I find disappointing with regard to Carraig Mór in Cork is that on 1 May there was a District Court hearing. The HSE is challenging the Mental Health Commission's requirements. It is wrong that we are spending money in a court process challenging the Mental Health Commission on the clear set of advice it set out on what needs to be done. It is wrong that taxpayers' money is being used in this way. There are 18 patients in the facility. It is outdated and it should be about trying to find a solution rather than going through a court process. I ask the Minister of State for the issue to be taken on board mutually to make sure all facilities are brought up to the standards required.
I know of a facility, which is not in Cork, where during the pandemic there were 27 patients. There were six residents per room and nine of the 27 people died in a two-week period. This caused a huge challenge for staff, management and everyone involved because the facility is out of date. It is important that we prioritise updating the facilities and making sure we have an adequate number of staff and that they have adequate facilities to work in.
With regard to people working generally in the HSE, we need to put in place additional supports. Many staff working in the hospital sector have had a very difficult time over the past 18 months. We need additional supports for them to make sure we do not have people having to opt out of the healthcare system because they do not have the adequate supports they need to deal with the many difficulties they had during Covid-19. I ask that this is taken on board. I thank the Minister of State and her staff and everyone working in healthcare for their work over the past year.