Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Seamus Healy called on the Minister for Health to personally intervene to ensure that a quality, safe Mental Health Service is available to the people of South Tipperary.
Deputy Healy complemented the staff providing the service who work above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis. However, despite their best efforts, the Service has serious difficulties and is less than adequate.
Some would say the service is dysfunctional and others describe it as being in crisis. The reason for this is the changes over recent years by the Minister and the HSE to the mental health services for the people of south Tipperary. These changes were bulldozed through by the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, and the Health Service Executive. There was sham consultation and no engagement whatsoever with stakeholders by the Minister and the HSE.
Stakeholders who were 100% committed to A Vision for Change were dealt with in an arrogant and dismissive manner and it was suggested in a mischievous and dishonest manner that stakeholders were opposed to A Vision for Change, which could not be further from the truth. The staff associations, service users, general practitioners, consultant psychiatrists and public representatives were not listened to and staff felt bullied, threatened and intimidated. Indeed, the Minister of State, at a deputation, indicated that not only were the changes she was proposing set in stone, but that they were set in blood. Of course, the Minister of State and the HSE have refused to honour the various commitments they made at the time.
For instance, there are five community mental health teams in south Tipperary, including three sectoral adult teams. None of these teams is properly staffed. Not a single team has the staffing levels provided for in A Vision for Change. The rehabilitation team, for instance, has no allied health professional of any kind. Earlier this year, clinics could not be held because of the shortage of consultant staff. Indeed, the closure of the inpatient beds at St. Michael’s unit in Clonmel and the transfer of those beds to St. Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny has been a disaster. I am told by service users and family members that south Tipperary patients are being delayed in admission to that unit, south Tipperary patients are subject to early unsupported discharge from that unit, and family members find it difficult to visit and support their relatives who are patients in the unit. There is no continuity of care for south Tipperary patients at consultant level. The crisis house promised for south Tipperary has not been built and now, apparently, is on the back burner and the interim crisis house meant for short stay, a maximum of 72 hours, is being used for stays as long as weeks and months.
Particularly disturbing are the contents of a letter sent by nine consultant staff in the service in Carlow-Kilkenny and south Tipperary to the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, in June 2013. That letter speaks of the service in terms of being unsafe, of them having serious concerns, of excessive numbers of deaths, of inadequate local governance arrangements, of nine fatalities between August 2011 and January 2013, and of meetings having been a sham. No response has been made to that letter since then, over 12 months ago.
The people and the service in south Tipperary have no confidence in the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, or the Health Service Executive. I call on the Minister to personally intervene to ensure that a quality safe service is available to the people of south Tipperary.