Psychiatric units in Waterford, Kilkenny hit by industrial action

‘Vital services cannot be delivered adequately’ due to overcrowding, say nurses

Psychiatric nurses at University Hospital Waterford are refusing to carry out non-nursing duties as part of  industrial action.

Psychiatric nurses at University Hospital Waterford are refusing to carry out non-nursing duties as part of industrial action.

 

Psychiatric nurses in Waterford and Kilkenny are refusing to carry out non-nursing duties as part of a campaign of industrial action against overcrowding and staffing levels in mental health facilities in the counties.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) said its members in Waterford commenced industrial action on Tuesday while those in Kilkenny escalated a previously low-level protest.

It said the industrial action in Waterford affected the Department of Psychiatry at University Hospital Waterford and in residential units at Grangemore, St Aidens and Ard na Deise.

The dispute will also hit the acute psychiatric unit at St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny where the PNA maintained there were 50 patients in the 44-person unit at the weekend.

The union said nurses in both counties had recently voted overwhelmingly for action up to and including strikes.

The HSE said patients should continue to present for services as normal. It said it was continuing to work with staff representatives in the development of mental health services at acute and community level across the South East.

PNA industrial relations officer, Michael Hayes said nurses were embarking on industrial action reluctantly, but had been left with no choice in order to protect service delivery to patients and ensure the safety of both clients and staff in services across Waterford and Kilkenny.

“The message to the HSE from today is clear - the current levels of overcrowding in psychiatric units in Waterford and Kilkenny cannot be allowed to continue,” he said. “These vital services cannot be delivered adequately and safely in facilities that are regularly overcrowded and understaffed. They certainly cannot be run on the basis of an almost continuous redeployment of staff, use of agency staff and overtime and reliance on the sheer goodwill of over stretched permanent staff.”

Mr Hayes said: “The demand on the mental health services in Waterford and Kilkenny (as in the rest of the country) is constant, and growing. The current facilities are proving again and again that there is not the capacity (supported by proper staffing) to meet those demands and nurses are demanding that the HSE set out clearly how the issues arising from overcrowding and understaffing are going to be resolved in Waterford and Kilkenny once and for all.”

The HSE said it wanted to reassure the public that all of the staff in the South East Community Healthcare mental health services were committed to the provision of a quality and safe mental health service to the population it serves in counties Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford.

“When high demand for admission occurs in the departments of psychiatry in Waterford and Kilkenny, those patients admitted over the licence of these approved centres (ie 44 residents respectively) are made as comfortable as possible, being cognisant of the regulatory requirements attached to such approved centres and which are subject to regular monitoring by the Mental Health Commission, ” it said.

“When ’over occupancy’ has occurred, these units have returned to their operating capacity of 44 beds within a relatively short period of time.”

The HSE said it is conscious of the demand on the acute psychiatric inpatient services question and it is working to address the problem. It apologised to anyone who had been inconvenienced.