Independent TD for Donegal Thomas Pringle warned the Taoiseach that mental-health services for the elderly in the county were collapsing.
He said the services’ clinical director had informed GPs and Health Service Executive staff that all referrals by the mental- health service for older people would be returned to sender. The director had warned that without urgent contingency planning, a consultant-led, safe service for the elderly could no longer be provided.
“I remind the Taoiseach that 78 per cent of over-50s with depression are undiagnosed,” Mr Pringle added. “A further 85 per cent of people over 50 suffering from anxiety are also undiagnosed.”
Mr Pringle said signs of depression in elderly people could also be symptoms of the onset of dementia.
“If no service is available for older people, many cases could go undiagnosed, which might impose extra costs on the health services,” he added.
Mr Pringle said coming from rural Ireland Enda Kenny would be aware that many elderly people were suffering from isolation and loneliness.
Mr Kenny said an economic engine was required to drive proper services and, for that reason, the Government had deliberately focused on sorting out the public finances and creating jobs that paid well.
He said the 2016 vote for the Department of Health was €13.165 billion, which represented an increase of €880 million on the 2015 allocation.
Mr Kenny said additional funding for mental health was being provided by Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, who was doing "a wonderful job" in that area.
Mr Pringle said they had been hearing about the “engine” in the economy for the past couple of years, but it had not “spluttered into life for anybody outside the Pale”. He said the health budget was still €1.5 billion less than it was before the economic crash and services were not being provided.
Mr Kenny said Mr Pringle’s philosophy was “pay for nothing and provide everything”, adding there was nothing for nothing in this life.