I very much welcome that an interim solution in relation to additional staff has been found which has allowed staff to return to work in the Unit.
That they should have to go to such lengths to highlight their concerns in relation to Health and Safety Issues is completely unacceptable however.
Press Statement: 22nd April 2015
Councillor Catherine Connolly and member of the Regional Health Forum said the unprecedented step taken by 10 psychiatric nurses in refusing to go into work in the Psychiatry Department in Galway on Wednesday Morning, highlights in the most acute way the very serious concerns the nurses have in relation to Health and Safety issues in the unit. It is also time for the Mental Health Commission to inspect the Unit and report publicly.
Councillor Connolly said the nurses and concerned families 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.
In this regard that the staff would have to refuse to work in order to highlight their health and safety concerns is a serious indictment of HSE management said Cllr Connolly.
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 addition, the annual Mental Health Commission inspection reports have also repeatedly highlighted not alone the physical inadequacy of the building but also the failure to open the newly constructed High Observation Unit and the failure to recruit adequate staff and in particular Psychologists and Occupation Therapists.
Indeed following their last inspection and report dated the 11th and 12th March 2014, the Mental Health Commission stated clearly that notwithstanding progress made, the Psychiatric Unit was in breach of the condition imposed previously by them in relation to lack of individual care plans. Moreover they noted their disappointment that the High Observation Unit newly constructed at a significant cost was being inappropriately used as office space and further that several policies were out of date. Moreover the lack of the required number of psychologists and occupations therapists was also highlighted.
On every level, the Mental Health Commission’s observations in March 2014 and over many other previous years, 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 ten psychiatric nurses to highlight the continuous 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 management and the Minister of State, Kathleen Lynch along with the Minister for Health must he held to account.
Cllr Connolly said she will be raising this matter at the first opportunity at the next Health Forum meeting in May 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.