Patients in need of psychiatric treatment are walking out of the emergency department of University Hospital Galway because of the overcrowding problem at the facility, according to a local TD.
"It is clear the existing service is at crisis point," insists Deputy Catherine Connolly. "This is necessitating ongoing visits by the Mental Health Commission who have repeatedly highlighted the inadequacies of the service."
She says the delay in the roll-out of community mental health services in the city, Connemara and the islands is a cause of major concern for her.
She states that the new 50-bed psychiatric unit which is due to open before the end of the year will help and lead to an improved service. However, she warns that further crises are inevitable without the roll-out of community mental health services.
"It is a fundamental part of "A Vision for Change" [the policy document for mental health services in the coming years ] that adequate and appropriate space would be identified for community team staff to provide outpatient, domiciliary and day hospital services to a catchment area of more than 100,000 adult and elderly people throughout Galway city, Conamara and the islands.
"Yet notwithstanding that it is now over 11 years since "A Vision for Change" was rolled-out, there is still a complete lack of appropriate infrastructure to treat patients with acute illness in the community. Indeed, Galway city and Connemara have no day hospitals and have totally inadequate access to outpatient clinical space."
She says there is a "very positive" proposal by the HSE West to address this deficit by locating a community mental health team at a site in Dangan.
"Unfortunately there now seems to be a delay in the roll-out of the plan without adequate explanation as to why. In this regard I have tabled a series of Dáil questions seeking clarification in relation to the status of the proposal and an expected timescale for the opening and operation of the facility."