Tuesday 21 May 2019

Dr Kieran Moore blasts Wexford’s treatment after CAMHS protest

Protesters heading towards the quay to highlight the crisis within child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in Wexford
Protesters heading towards the quay to highlight the crisis within child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in Wexford

Pádraig Byrne

The booming sound of the St Patrick's Fife and Drum Band echoed around Wexford's narrow streets on Saturday as the Wexford Mental Health Warriors protested the continued crisis within child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in Wexford.

The band led some 200 people along the quay, up Anne Street and along the Main Street before coming to a stop on the green beside Wexford Arts Centre. Accompanying the large crowd were representatives from Bui Bolg and Red Moon Theatre and there was an atmosphere of hope and positivity despite the despair of the situation.

Almost a year ago, Child Psychiatric Consultant Dr Kieran Moore resigned from his post in Wexford after 16 years. At the time he stated that it was as a result of horrendous working conditions, 'burn out' and the fact that his team were 'struggling to provide a service' at all.

Since Dr Moore went public in relation to conditions, it appears little has changed. Having since taken up a role in Crumlin, he returned to town on Saturday to lend his support to another major protest organised by Wexford Mental Health Warriors - a group mainly comprised of parents whose children are struggling as a result of being given little or no access to proper mental health services.

'Honestly, things were awful at the time I left,' Dr Moore said, having reacquainted with some of the group in the sunshine. 'As a place Wexford is great and the people and staff here were wonderful, but the fact remains that it's the second worst in the country when it comes to child and adolescent mental health services.'

Under the government's 'Vision for Change' plan for mental health, there should be 11 staff members per population of 50,000. In Wexford, there are just 5.5 staff per 80,000 population. There is no child and adolescent consultant psychiatrist in Wexford. There are no CAMHS social workers or senior house officers. Later this month, there will be no CAMHS psychologist. In fact, the CAMHS service in south Wexford is operating on approximately only one third of the recommended staffing for this essential service.

'It's well documented how bad things were,' Dr Moore continued. 'There was no facility to take bloods or examine patients. There were slugs crawling on the floor. We had no blinds on the windows.'

'No matter how much we said, things didn't change,' he said. 'Every time I saw a patient, I would have to send so many emails. I'd spend the whole day ringing around begging for the child to be admitted to hospital. This wouldn't happen if, say, they needed their appendix out.'

Dr Moore is critical of the whole management structure of the HSE in the area of children's mental health.

'I worked with a team here - occupational therapist, speech and language, nurses - they were so good. I really miss them. But we were operating at less than a third of what we should have been operating at. The management of the HSE across the board is very poor. When it comes to children's mental health issues, managers, to be frank, don't know what they're doing. They need training across the board to deal with these situations.'

Dr Moore clearly has a lot of time for the parents behind the protest.

'I have so much time for these parents and their children,' he said. 'These parents and kids go through so much. It's only if people advocate and show their support like today that anything will be done. People try to ignore things like this as much as they can. This is the only way change can happen.'

'Wexford is so badly treated,' he continued. 'In Dublin, teams are not full with resources, but things are much better. It seems to be that the postcode you're in has a major say in the services you receive and the access you have to services. I don't know why this is the case. There's a huge population in this area. Some 150,000 people and they are being treated differently.'

The protest certainly made it's presence felt as it wound it's way through Wexford's narrow streets. There was a wonderful atmosphere and a sense of positivity despite the dire state of the situation. Organisers Sandra Mulhall, Caroline Smith and Raymond Shannon are all parents who have struggled to get access to mental health services for their children. Sandra says her son has been 'marred by the whole experience. While he's getting some help now, I have to keep on top of them all the time.'

While Dr Moore identified that the current CAMHS facility in Wexford, Slaney House, is completely unfit for purpose, the parents say that they've had countless broken promises and delays in relation to a new facility at Arden House, slated to open at some point between July and September of this year.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson for mental health James Browne TD was also present at the protest and pointed out that he believes that these unsuitable facilities are playing a major part in Wexford's inability to attract child psychologists.

'I think the figures reflect the lack of service here in Wexford,' he said. 'We don't have proper facilities. The figures show that children are suffering in Wexford. Getting Arden House open is key to getting a child psychologist in Wexford, but the delays have been outrageous.'

'This action shouldn't be necessary, but unfortunately it is,' he continued. 'There are ordinary people that have kids that need help and that know that their kids could improve significantly if they get help. These parents are here today out of desperation and I'm in awe of the work they're putting in and fully support them.'

When asked to pinpoint in particular why Wexford consistently figures so highly when it comes to suicide and mental health issues, Deputy Browne says he believes it's a vicious circle.

'I think it all harks back to socio-economic issues,' he said. 'We have high rates of unemployment here and a lot of the jobs are what would be deemed "low paying jobs". While it's true to say that we do urgently need the doctors, nurses and medical staff, I think from a broader point of view we also need to focus on delivering high quality jobs and proper housing.'

The organisers of Saturday's protest were delighted with the turnout and have vowed that they will continue to organise similar actions until Wexford gets a safe, workable building for CAMHS in the county and the appointment of a replacement consultant psychiatrist to replace Dr Kieran Moore, who, in the interim, is happy to lend his voice to support them in any way he can.

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