November 27, 2013

Mental health service proposals a waste of public funds The urgent need for a review of the mental health services in Galway/Roscom- mon and its catchment was raised in the Dail by Denis Naughten TO on November 13th. He made the call follow- ing the revelation that the HSE is planning to spend in excess of €24m on new facili- ties while decommissioning or demolishing facilities that cost €8m to establish.

"It is clear that this mis- management of public funds is as a direct result of the failure by the HSE to develop a strategic plan for the men- tal health services both locally and regionally,' said Denis Naughten.

"Presently, the HSE is in the process of decommis- sioning the newly refur- bished €2.8 million acute psychiatric unit in BaHi- nasloe, a hostel in Togher- more, Tuam, costing in excess of €2 million and a yet to be opened high observa- tion unit at Galway Univer- sity hospital costing E3mUllon.

In tandem with this it is spending €13 million on a new acute psychiatric unit in Galway city, E5m on the refurbishment of an acute psychiatric unit in Mull- ingar which will cater for people within the catchment of Baliinasloe and €6m on a new facility in Sligo which will cater for people who are closer to the Roscommon/ Galway service than to the Sligo service.' Deputy Naughten said that to compound this lack of planning, the final catch- ment area of the Galway/ Roscommon service has still to be determined which will have a bearing on the final design of the overall service.

He asked; 'With so much public funds involved surely it makes far more sense to decide how the final service should look before the HSE wastes €8m?' 'Furthermore the imagi- nary demarcation lines which are being drawn by the HSE for people with acute mental health issues need to be removed. Patients must be able to attend the most appropriate service rather than the one deter- mined by a line on a map.

"At the end of the processwomen will be able to havethen* baby delivered in Balii-nasloe but won't be able tobe treated in the town foracute post -natal depressiondespite Baliinasloe havingboth a national and interna-tional reputation for its men-tal health services.

"I cannot understand whya mother cannot be treatedin that town for a conditionbased upon a birth thatoccurred there simplybecause she is on the wrongside of an imaginary line.

This demarcation places anunjust but clear differencebetween mental and physi-cal health, something whichwe must all strive to abolish,1concluded Deputy Naugh-ten.

In reply Minister KathleenLynch reiterated her posi-tion that "an open and trans-parent scoring system wasused to assess the merits ofall relevant criteria and loca-tions." She added: "I wish tostress that community men-tal health services can onlybe enhanced on a traditionalor phased basis, particularlybearing in mind that somestaff from St. Brigid's in Bal-iinasloe must transfer tonew community-based pro-vision." Minister Lynch added thatHSE West had recentlyestablished an implementa-tion team, including bothpatient and staff representa-tion, to engage in appropri-ate consultation to progressthis initiative and to addressany outstanding local con-cerns. That team hadalready held a number ofbriefings with, among oth-ers, The Mental Health Com-mission, Baliinasloe TownCouncil and HSE staff.

Minister Lynch rejectedDenis Naughten's call for anaudit saying, 'We know whatis there and what is neededto deliver the service. Phase1 provides for the closure offive beds in Baliinasloe andthe opening of five beds inGalway hospital to be imple-mented by January 2014,Phase 2 involves the closureof a further five beds to Bal-iinasloe and the opening offive beds in Galway Univer-sity Hospital to be completedby April 2014 and Phase 3will see the opening of a fur-ther five beds in Galway Uni-versity Hospital bringing thetotal number of beds there to50 and the closure of Balii-nasloe." On the issue of post natalservices the minister saidthat in the new mentalhealth services in Galwaythey would be putting inplace facilities for womenand their babies to be dealtwith in the one unit similarto what is already happeningin Cork, The minister said that peo-ple in the Galway/Roscom-mon area deserve the sameexcellent service that existsin other areas of the countryand expressed wonder as towhy deputies can say thatshe is implementing Visionfor Change too slowly, 'Yetwhen it comes to their ownparticular area they do notwant it done at all.' On Monday a spokesper-son for the East Galway Men-tal Health Action Grouprejected the minister's argu-ments saying "the decisionis fundamentally flawed. It istoo expensive and will con-tribute to the lessening ofservices for a large numberof people, not an improve-ment. It appears that theprocess is not being run bydoctors, since all the doctorsin Baliinasloe, who are mostintimately associated withthe health services, do notagree with the closure of St.

Brigid's acute beds." Meanwhile in Galway citythere is growing oppositionto the temporary construc-tion of a helipad in Shan-talla to allow for theconstruction of a 238 spacecar parking facility in whatCllr Catherine Connolly saidwas "the overdevelopment ofa site for a hospital that isnot suitable." Cttr Connollytold Galway City Council onNovember 10th: "This is notabout the hospital, this isabout planning a car parkthat win not add one singleextra space to a congestedsite that is clearly not suited.

It is time we called a halt tothe overdevelopment of asite for a hospital that isclearly not suited."Minister Kathleen Lynch (Labour).