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Whistleblowing mental health worker loses job

A Whistleblower who revealed psychiatric patients in an open ward were being forced into a locked unit over the festive period due to staff shortages has lost her job.

Louise Bayliss spoke out after she discovered that female patients at St Brendan's Psychiatric Hospital, Grangegorman in north Dublin, were being moved to a "lock-up" ward for Christmas. But after her story appeared on page one of the Sunday Independent, Ms Bayliss wasn't allowed to return to the HSE wards where she worked as an advocate worker on behalf of mentally ill patients.

The separated mother of two, who also spoke out on Joe Duffy's Liveline show, has since lost her job with the Irish Advocacy Network (IAN) which is part funded by the HSE.

There is now intense pressure to have her reinstated, with Health Minister James Reilly asked to personally intervene.

Ms Bayliss, who had a six-month contract to act as an advocate for patients at various hospitals around Dublin, says she has no regrets.

"They recognised my voice on Liveline and I used my first name on the programme. I was easy to identify" she said. Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Ms Bayliss said she felt that she was acting in the true spirit of advocacy by speaking out on behalf of the five patients.

Public representatives, including Labour's Joe Costello, had also asked for the transfer of the women, who have since returned to their open ward, to be stopped.

And last night Fine Gael TD for Dublin Mid-West, Derek Keating, condemned Ms Bayliss's treatment.

"I am very upset that a woman could lose her position having spoken out on behalf of vulnerable and voiceless individuals. These events will do little to encourage trust in the HSE staff at St Brendan's Hospital. That Ms Bayliss herself now faces being out of work having had the courage and decency to alert people to the situation these patients were facing is wrong," he said.

Ms Bayliss was told last Wednesday by the IAN that her services were no longer required, although she had three months of her contract still to run.

"The Monday after the story appeared in the Sunday Independent I got a call at 9am in the morning from one of the managers and she basically said that I shouldn't have spoken to anyone about what was happening at St Brendan's.

"She said I shouldn't have spoken on behalf of the patients without their consent," she said.

"But these women were not going to give consent to anyone because they were afraid of being victimised."

The manager told Ms Bayliss that as a result she couldn't go back on the wards until she completed the basic six-day FETAC Grade 4 training course -- even though she specialised in mental health for her master's degree.

"I thought that's fine. That's my knuckles rapped.

"But then I was called into another meeting and there were two managers waiting for me. One of them said: 'Louise, just to let you know, you cannot go back on to the wards until you complete your formal training.'

"I said: 'Ok. I accept that. I have to go to training on Thursday.' But then he turned around and said: 'We don't have time to train you. You can't go back on the wards so you can't do your job so we are going to have to let you go now.'"

In a statement, the HSE said it "did not involve itself in the organisation's (Irish Advocacy Network's) internal matters" and had no role in relation to staff contracted.

The Irish Advocacy Network has not issued a statement.

Sunday Independent