Saturday 16 December 2017

Hospital deaths not due to staff shortage, says Lynch

Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch has responsibility for mental health. Photo: Tom Burke
Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch has responsibility for mental health. Photo: Tom Burke

Brian Byrne

JUNIOR health minister Kathleen Lynch has denied that a staff shortage could be to blame for nine fatalities at psychiatric hospitals in recent years.

Ms Lynch described the Carlow-Kilkenny/South Tipperary mental health service as "one of the best resourced services in the country", despite revelations that nine consultant psychiatrists withdrew confidence in the service on the belief it was unsafe.

Their concerns related to nine fatalities at psychiatric hospitals in the region in the 14 months between August 2011 and January 2013, including three suicides of in-patients by the same means, four suicides in home-based settings and a further suicide in a crisis home.

In a letter dated June 2013, the doctors repeatedly questioned the safety of governance in the service and claimed they felt "devalued" and "ignored" in their attempts to raise their concerns internally with the Health Service Executive (HSE).

They called on Ms Lynch to intervene with the HSE to ensure proper investigation of incidents and communication of review findings, with the implementation of appropriate reforms within the service.

They had previously raised concerns with the HSE about the management of the mental health service in November 2012 and on subsequent occasions. HSE management later responded that their concerns had been addressed, which they said was "inconceivable".


Speaking to RTE Radio 1's 'This Week' yesterday, Ms Lynch denied she had ignored the doctors' concerns and said she had raised them with HSE management.

She added that there "is no resource issue" with the south-east mental health service.

It's understood that the Irish Mental Health Commission has launched an investigation into governance structures within the service, and a review by the National Lead Clinical Directors' Programme is under way.

Fianna Fail spokesperson on mental health Colm Keaveney said the suicides signified mental health services are "broken and in need of a serious overhaul".

"The revelations are harrowing and should serve as a wake-up call for Ms Lynch and her department.

"The system is not working and it must be changed to meet the needs of service users; the only way this can be done is speaking with nurses, doctors and patients, not so-called experts who have no appreciation for the situation," he said.

Irish Independent

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