Protest over closure of acute mental health unit in Co Galway
HSE plans to shut €2.8 million unit in Ballinasloe despite local opposition
Minister of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch: A delegation from the locality has sought a meeting with the minister to convey serious public concern over the plans. Photograph: Eric Luke
Opposition to HSE plans to close a new €2.8 million acute psychiatric unit in east Galway is set to intensify with two demonstrations planned over the coming days.
A rally is due to take place in Ballinasloe tomorrow over the proposed closure of the unit, while there will also be a demonstration outside the Dáil next Wednesday.
A delegation from the locality has sought a meeting with Minister of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch to convey serious public concern over the plans.
The Psychiatric Nurses’ Association (PNA) says that the removal of acute beds from St Brigid’s Psychiatric Hospital in Ballinasloe without appropriate community facilities having been put in place first was “never envisaged” under the Government’s Vision for Change strategy on mental health.
Senior mental health service managers in Co Galway have already appealed directly to national director of mental health services Stephen Mulvany to review the controversial decision, which involves referring patients who would use the Ballinasloe unit on to an older unit at Roscommon.
The managers told the director in a letter during the summer that they could not understand how a facility which has just been refurbished, at a cost of €2.8 million, could be seen as less modern than the unit at the department of psychiatry at Roscommon County Hospital, which was last fully refurbished more than 20 years ago.
Roscommon’s hospital has no 24-hour emergency unit, unlike Portiuncula in Ballinasloe, which maintains a close relationship with St Brigid’s.
At a public meeting last month, Roscommon Independent TD Denis Naughten described the Ballinasloe unit as “state of the art – the most modern in the country”, and said that the scoring system used by the HSE to arrive at the decision made no sense. “Over the summer mental health patients in Roscommon were being sent to Galway because there was no room for them in Roscommon or in Ballinasloe. This decision to close Ballinasloe is simply crazy,” he said.
PNA national secretary Noel Giblin said that the HSE was using the Vision for Change strategy to cut beds without having the community supports in place to meet the demand for services.
HSE West said that the closure is part of a transition towards community-based alternatives and that there are sufficient resources in Galway and Roscommon to meet the needs of the patients under Vision for Change.