THE Chairperson of the ‘Save Our Hospital’ action group campaigning against the HSE’s plans to ‘re-configure’ mental health services in the South East, has strongly criticised what he termed the “silencing” of a consultant psychiatrist who has come out against plan.
The HSE announced last week it would close St Michael’s psychiatric unit, to take effect by May 1st next year.
It’s understood some of the services are to be centralised to Kilkenny, while the HSE has committed itself to a programme of community care. This involves treating patients in the community where they live. As part of the plans, it is expected that a “crisis house” will be set up on a temporary basis at Our Lady’s in Cashel, while a more permanent base is found in Clonmel. About 20 beds in St Michael’s are reserved for patients from North Tipperary. From October next, these patients will be treated in Ennis Hospital instead.
At Cashel Town Council on Monday night, Mayor Maribel Wood called on the HSE to clarify what services would be put in place in Cashel.
Meanwhile, Seamus Healy TD, the Chairperson of the Save Our Acute Hospital Services Committee, has condemned what he called the ‘bullying’ of Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Alan Moore. Dr Moore has been vocal in his opposition to some aspects of the ‘re-configuration’ plan for the South East. Deputy Healy said Dr Moore had been sent a letter by the HSE, pressing him to stop making public statements about the matter or he would be subject to disciplinary action by the HSE.
“The Save Our Acute Hospital Services Committee, on hearing of this disgraceful development at its special meeting on Thursday night last, condemned the Health Service Executive and supported Dr Moore and renewed its determination to ensure the continued provision of acute in-patient psychiatric services at St. Michael’s Unit, South Tipperary General Hospital,” said Deputy Healy.
“Dr Moore has the support of all stake holders in the Mental Health Services in the County. He is an able and experienced professional, widely respected in the consultant psychiatric community and in the community generally. This action by the Health Service Executive is bullying of the worst kind and will not be accepted. Dr Moore has been doing no more that expressing the unanimous views of his South Tipperary Consultant colleagues and the views of all but one of his Kilkenny colleagues.
The Health Service Executive are silencing Dr Moore, an experienced and well-respected consultant while at the same time accepting ‘advice” from an individual who claims to represent local service users even though he is neither elected nor appointed and is not from the county nor does he reside in the county.”
Deputy Healy said the hospital group will be voicing their opposition to the plans to Minister Kathleen Lynch when she visits Clonmel this Thursday.
Deputy Mattie McGrath also condemned the plans, and criticised government Ministers for their “continual refusals” to meet with South Tipperary Oireachtas Members.
“We the Oireachtas Members for South Tipperary have been completely ignored by the HSE and the Minister for Health. Our requests to meet with Minister Reilly have been ignored and Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch TD paid a flying visit to St. Michael’s without informing the Oireachtas Members” said McGrath
“The HSE attempted to close St. Michael’s last year however following action from the Oireachtas Members, Minister Moloney put it on hold and appointed Professor Hillery to investigate the matter.
“Dr. Hillery’s recommendations have been ignored and the HSE are continuing with their bully-boy tactics. It is absolutely outrageous that the HSE and the Department of Health will not consult with the South Tipperary Oireachtas Members and all other stakeholders.
“It is also outrageous that South Tipperary Oireachtas Members are the last to hear the plans as we were not invited to the press conference,” added McGrath.
Munster MEP Phil Prendergast welcomed the proposals. “The top priority is the welfare of service users. Mental Health Minister Kathleen Lynch has assured me that all arrangements will be in place for the first transfer at the end of October and clients will have an input into the type of service they will require.
“I also welcome the Minister’s confirmation that two new units in Clonmel will be completed by May next year and that Community Health Teams and improvements to the unit in Ennis will all be ready for North Tipperary service users.
“The Fianna Fáil-led government wanted to close St Michael’s at the end of 2010 when none of the new services were ready. I successfully resisted this, arguing that changes could not be made until the new modern services were in place. I am glad to say Minister Lynch shares this view and will ensure that equivalent or better treatment will be provided to Tipperary’s mental health service users.
“I remain to be convinced there is enough acute bed capacity overall in the system because the recession has led to a severe deterioration in the country’s mental health and existing acute facilities are under constant pressure.
“I will be meeting Minister Lynch next week to get further details and to urge her to ensure future admission policies for Tipperary patients takes full account of where they live,” added Ms Prendergast.