Seanad debates

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Commencement Matters

Mental Health Services

10:30 am

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Cuirim céad fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Táim thar a bheith buíoch di as teacht isteach ar an gceist seo.

I hope the Minister of State is aware of the current crisis in the psychiatric services in Galway. I know she is aware of the issue that arose at that hospital last May, which led to nurses taking industrial action in relation to health and safety and staffing levels at the acute psychiatric unit. Following that incident an implementation group was set up to try to resolve the issues. Commitments were given in regard to staffing levels and the opening of a new unit that is available but is currently lying empty. I am told that those commitments have not been met.

I understand there was chaos in the acute psychiatric unit in University Hospital Galway last weekend because there were insufficient staff to manage the unit. I also understand that worker representatives spent the weekend trying to contact management who were responsible for the staffing of that unit but that they were not available or would not make themselves available to resolve the issues. I am further told that the issues should have been resolved mid-week while people were in their offices and that staffing at the time of the chaos was at a level which raised huge concerns among staff in terms of their safety and that of patients. This is not acceptable.

This issue forms part of the broader picture of psychiatric services in the west, particularly the Galway-Roscommon area. I am told by people who work in those services that the closure of the service in Ballinasloe has put added pressure on the psychiatric unit in UHG. When that service was closed a commitment was given that a community psychiatric group, made up of approximately ten to 12 nurses who would work in the community, would be established to meet additional demand following the closure of the Ballinasloe units. However, that group has not yet been established.

I am aware that there are serious concerns about some of the homes in Roscommon, which are managed by the Galway-Roscommon PCCC. It has raised huge concerns about the incidents that have occurred there, which issues I have raised in this House previously. I understand there has been a reshuffle of management in the psychiatric and mental health services in Galway. Mental health and psychiatric services in Galway are chaotic. Something must be done immediately because, according to worker representatives, staff and family members of patients at the unit, lives at being put in danger. Their concern in this regard is real and genuine. Recently a patient admitted to the psychiatric unit in Galway somehow got out and was found some days later having hanged himself. The family concerned is distraught over that incident.This is another disaster waiting to happen. It is a serious issue that must be grasped and sorted out very quickly. The review of the mental health services in Roscommon should be extended to Galway-Roscommon because the services there were managed by the same group of people and all those services were being exchanged and staff moved between the areas. If it is a question of resources, they need to be made available immediately to make sure, particularly in acute psychiatric situations, that there are enough staff and nurses to ensure the patients, doctors and other staff are safe.


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