Senators will today vote on a Fianna Fáil motion demanding an immediate halt to the closure of beds at mental health units in Ballinasloe and Tuam in Co Galway, and Glanmire and Shanakiel in Co Cork.
The motion calls for a full, independent review of the decision to shut down the €3.1 million acute mental health unit at St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe.
It also calls for an immediate stay on the closure of acute in-patient bed units at three other units – St Stephen’s Hospital in Glanmire, Co Cork, Carrig Mór Mental Health Unit in Shanakiel in Cork City and Toghermore House in Co Galway – until adequate community-based services are put in place for people with mental health difficulties.
Fianna Fáil’s Seanad Spokesperson on Health Senator Marc Mac Sharry will move the motion in the Seanad at 4pm today.
“What we are seeing is a systematic and sneaky attack on acute mental health services in many parts of the country. The situation has reached crisis point in Galway and Cork, where acute mental health beds are now being shut down without any reasonable alternative service available to the patients effected,” explained Senator Marc Mac Sharry.
“The decision to shut down the state-of-the-art mental health facility in Ballinasloe is already having a serious impact on mental health services in Galway. Patients are being transferred to the outdated and ill-equipped mental health unit at UHG, which has been described by senior clinicians as totally inadequate. We saw earlier this month how two patients with mental health emergencies were left waiting on trolleys in the A&E department at UHG for hours. A week later, part of the ceiling at the UHG mental health unit collapsed in stormy weather. People are seriously struggling to understand how the Government can stand by a decision to leave the €3.1 million ligature-free unit at Ballinasloe standing idle, while patients are transferred to a hospital that is clearly not equipped to cope with their needs.
“A similar situation is happening in Cork, where acute mental health beds are being closed without any adequate alternative service in place for people with mental health problems.
“As a first step, we are asking Senators today to put an immediate stop to these closures until a full review is carried out of the decision to shut down St Brigid’s in Ballinasloe, and until adequate community-based mental health services are put in place in Galway and Cork.
“We are also calling on the Government to keep its commitment under A Vision for Change to hiring an additional 1,800 multi-disciplinary mental health staff across the country. Despite promises to hire 891 new staff over 2012 and 2013, the total number of staff in the mental health services at the end of 2013 was 5 less than the previous year and 908 less than 2009.
“This motion gives Senators a chance today to stand up for their communities and demand a stop to the dismantling of local mental health services.”