Monday 21 October 2019

Man was 'turned away' from St. Columba's

The patient, who was having a severe psychotic episode, called to the out-of-hours service

Jessica Farry

A man who was in the middle of a severe psychotic episode was allegedly turned away from St. Columba's when he arrived at the out-of-hours service recently.

Sinn Féin's Martin Kenny TD has claimed a constituent of his has been using the mental health services in the North West for some time and who, due to a trauma in his youth, can experience severe episodes.

Kenny told the Dáil that the man's family were told that the mental health service would put a team around him to help him, 'a social worker would be put in place, which did happen, and that the primary care unit near his town would come into play and help look after him'.

The social worker retired and was not replaced. The primary care unit that was supposed to provide mental health services is 'very ad hoc and on numerous occasions when the man phoned, nobody answered and he did not get a call back'.

Deputy Kenny said: "When a severe episode occurs, this person is inclined to self-harm, wrecks his whole house and lashes out at everybody around him. He is a danger to himself and others.

"The service providers told him that if ever he sees an episode coming on, he should go to them, that the door would be opened and they would take him in and look after him. He did so less than a week ago, but when he arrived at St. Columba's out-of-hours there was nobody there.

"He sat for two and a half hours before he saw a junior consultant, who spoke to him for approximately half an hour and then told him he was okay to go home."

Deputy Kenny added that the men felt extremely let down and left feeling just as distressed as he did when he arrived.

He added: ""A couple of days later, he phoned gardaí and asked them to come and take him away or he would do something terrible. The gardaí had to bring him back into the services.

"This is one case but there are numerous others, sometimes involving young adolescents and children. They find there are huge holes in the service."

Deputy Kenny raised the lack of out-of-hours psychiatric services in Sligo with Minister of State Jim Daly during a topical issues debate in the Dáil last week.

"While there may be a junior consultant on call, that same person is also on call in Sligo University Hospital up the road and may be dealing with people there and not able to leave.

"I want the Minister of State to find out about this. When this happens there is supposed to be a back-up junior registrar on call.

"How often has that person been called in? I have been told that person has never been called in."

Minister of State Daly acknowledged Martin Kenny's bona fides on this issue and added:

"The HSE is currently rolling out several pilot schemes around the country in the area of delivering mental healthcare online, including psychology and psychiatry.

"That is how we will address the gaps in the system. Rather than psychiatrists spending three hours travelling to see a patient, they will be able to spend that time online treating multiple patients."

The HSE was contacted for comment.

Sligo Champion