Saturday 16 December 2017

Hospital turned away suicidal man

Gardai had to find bed for patient after staff crisis forced care unit closure

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

A SUICIDAL man was turned away from an acute hospital mental health unit which was closed due to a staffing crisis, according to his family.

The incident happened last weekend after all admissions to Roscommon acute services had to be cancelled due to a lack of psychiatric nurses.

The revelation comes in the wake of recent warnings from Mental Health Commission that public psychiatric services were in danger of deteriorating further unless recruitment of staff took place.

The man begged to be admitted to the Roscommon unit after taking an overdose, the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) said.

Independent TD Denis Naughten, who knows the individual involved, said gardai had to step in to try to secure a bed for him at Galway University Hospital.

Two weeks earlier he had been taken to the emergency department of Sligo General Hospital after taking an overdose. He had since been discharged.

Mr Naughten said Roscommon acute unit had a number of patients who needed intensive support and this was taking up staff resources.

"There is a crisis in staff there now because of the cohort of patients who are there now. I have brought up up the matter with Minister of State Kathleen Lynch and she said she is looking into it."

Gardai have been called to the unit on three occasions to deal with reported assaults.

Two of those assaulted were staff, who are now out on sick leave, while a patient suffered a broken shoulder. PNA national secretary Noel Gilbin said: "The worsening situation at Roscommon as a result of the staffing crisis in the unit led to the decision to suspend all admissions over the weekend."

He warned that the reduction in the numbers of psychiatric nurses in the Unit from 111 in 2009 to 58 in 2013, together with the lack of a developed community service, was bringing services to breaking point.

He said that up to 100 service users, their families, public representatives and members of staff at Roscommon Hospital Mental Health Unit attended a packed public meeting last Thursday to voice their concerns.

Roscommon doesn't have a suicide prevention team and has only four community psychiatric nurses.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said staffing levels at the acute unit in Roscommon were reviewed on a daily basis to reflect the needs of the patients: "Galway and Roscommon mental health services are managed as a single service across the two counties and there are three acute units: Roscommon, Ballinasloe and University College Hospital Galway," she said.

"If one of the acute units has reached its maximum operational capacity because of the level of the patients' illnesses then incoming patients receive their treatment in one of the neighbouring units. This is normal practice in acute mental health units across Ireland.

"Patients who are unwell and require mental health services are usually seen by their GP or GP out-of-hour's service in the first instance; patients are then referred by their GP to acute mental health services if required."

Irish Independent

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