Department of Psychiatry Galway

Press Statement: 27th May 2015 from Cllr Catherine Connolly on the Psychiatric Department

Councillor Catherine Connolly said she welcomes the unanimous support of the Regional Health Forum for her motion that the Regional Health Forum receive an urgent report on what steps have been taken by the HSE West to remedy the position in the Psychiatric Unit in Galway given the health and safety concerns of the staff and given the ongoing concerns of the Mental Health Commission.

Cllr Connolly said she tabled this motion at last Tuesday’s meeting on the 26th May given the unprecedented step taken by 10 psychiatric nurses in refusing to go into work in the Psychiatry Department in Galway last April and further to the staff’s continued concerns and industrial action.

Councillor Connolly said the nurses and the families of the patients have repeatedly highlighted their concerns to elected members in relation to the inadequacy of the building itself, the inadequate staff ratios and the 36 assaults which the staff have had to cope with. Indeed she and other Councillors raised these issues on many occasions on the Regional Health Forum but were met with strong and direct denials by Management that this was the position.

She said however that staff concerns intensified following the decision by HSE Management not to use the brand new 22 bedded mental health unit in Ballinasloe in early 2014. This decision which saw a substantial increase in the number of vulnerable patients from the County having to go to the Galway Psychiatric Unit placed unit under significant additional stress.

Rather than hearing and dealing with staff concerns however which were always and ever expressed in the most reasonable manner, the HSE West Management continued not to hear and/or deal with them.

She said following the decision not to open the new unit in Ballinasloe, the HSE West increased the bed capacity in Galway from 35 beds to 45 beds in a unit that was already seriously under strain in relation to lack of staff. Indeed in response to the tabled motion last Tuesday, the HSE West Management finally confirmed to Cllr Connolly that they were issues of concern including lack of staff and particularly psychologists.

This is an issue she said which the Mental Health Commission annual inspection reports have repeatedly highlighted and in particular the lack of Psychologists and Occupation Therapists. In addition the Commission has highlighted a number of other issues including the failure to have up to date individual patient care plans, the physical inadequacy of the building, the failure to open the newly constructed High Observation Unit and the failure to have up to date policies.

These are issues which should have lead a responsible Health Executive Management and Minister for Health to take urgent action.

Yet it has taken the courageous action of the psychiatric nurses to highlight the congoing serious health and safety issues posed by the inadequacy of the unit and the staffing ratio.

Councillor Connolly said the situation is actually very worrying and she will continue to raise the matter at every opportunity of the Health Forum and once again is calling on the Health Commission to carry out a full inspection of the psychiatric unit as a matter of urgency given that it is over one year since their last unannounced full inspection and following which they had the most serious concerns.

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