Patients' move to secure ward comes under fire


MINISTER OF STATE for Health Kathleen Lynch has said there is “little we can do” for patients in Grangegorman who are being transferred from an open unit to a secure ward for Christmas and New Year because staff will be on holiday leave.

Ms Lynch, who is to visit the unit and is expected to bring the four TDs who raised the issue in the Dáil – Joe Costello, Derek Keating, Maureen O’Sullivan and Alex White – said the “blunt instrument” of the recruitment moratorium “will not serve us well in mental health”.

Five women with mental-health problems are being moved from an open unit in the psychiatric hospital to a secure ward with one toilet with six other patients. Ms Lynch said the HSE has assured her that patients who “previously could move in and out freely will still be able to do so”.

Ms O’Sullivan said the move is very distressing and disturbing for patients.

The Minister said the staff would not return until January 16th and “there is little we can do in the circumstances. At present 37 staff are absent in the units in question as a result of maternity leave and sick leave, and because a number of those who will retire in February will avail of the accumulated leave to which they are entitled.” She said it was “natural and understandable that people are reluctant to work during the Christmas holidays”.

Mr Costello called for overtime or agency staff to be used, but Ms Lynch said the HSE had informed her it was better to have staff with whom residents were familiar. Mr Keating believed the move was “possibly illegal and it is certainly immoral”.

The Minister said the HSE had informed the Mental Health Commission.