Taxi drivers used to transport suicidal patients
Taxi drivers are being inappropriately used to transfer suicidal patients to acute psychiatric units.
The drivers, who have no psychiatric training, are having to deal with the demands of mentally ill patients, a conference was told yesterday.
This is due to a lack of psychiatric nurses.
Des Kavanagh, general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), told its annual conference that in other cases units were having to be "stripped" of staff to accompany patients who needed admission, leaving the service at risk due to a lack of nurses.
"We urgently need HSE managers to agree operational protocols which avoids these kinds of scenarios," he told the delegates in Cavan.
He said a Minister for Mental Illness was needed, who understands the pain of those in the depths of depression, the horrors of those living with serious psychosis and the challenge of living with bipolar disorder and other psychiatric illnesses.
A lack of beds in child and adolescent mental health units also mean that children are having to be admitted to adult psychiatric hospitals, otherwise they would be two to three hours away from their families.
A lack of child and adolescent psychiatrists also means that when one goes on leave or is off sick, the services stop.
"Those politicians who celebrated during the 1916 commemorations should remember the signatories pledge to treat all of our children equally," said Mr Kavanagh.
He said that a minister was also needed to lobby for a secure psychiatric unit on the western seaboard and ask why so many mentally ill people are in prison.
The conference heard a survey to measure progress of Vision for Change, the 10-year-old blueprint which was to modernise psychiatric services, revealed huge gaps in services in the community. Some are in disarray. Just one-third of community mental health teams are fully staffed.