Insensitive treatment of psychiatric patients is appalling, health forum is told

The insensitive treatment of mental health patients at hospitals in the city was slammed by former mayor Padraig Conneely at the regional health forum on Tuesday.

Although welcoming the new 50-bed acute inpatient unit at University Hospital Galway (UHG ) at the cost of €13.28 million, the Fine Gael councillor described incidents of patients being unable to gain access to the mental health block as a serious issue.

Highlighting a number of incidents where patients had been turned away by hospital staff, including the story of an 18-year-old being rescued from the River Corrib after attempting suicide, Cllr Conneely said; "Over the last week some appalling incidents have been recorded and publicised in relation to patients unable to gain access to the mental health block. It is outrageous when you read these stories - 'UHG turns away suicidal teen' - the girl that who was rescued from the Corrib was kept in a Garda cell to make sure she did not harm herself further.

"Another case was a patient who was told by a member of the hospital when they sent him home that he should consider joining the Darkness into Light walk because it would be good for him. Isn't that terrible to be said to someone?"

Cllr Conneely also questioned whether mental health support was being provided on a 24 hour basis at the hospital.

"It has been said there is no one on duty; only hours of duty is from 9am to 5pm. Where do you go then? Something is terribly wrong and no one is addressing this in senior management in this hospital."

In response to the councillor's comments, executive chairman of the regional health forum Tony Canavan said the headlines made for difficult reading.

"The situation is very difficult for the families involved and also the services involved. But the provision of services must be taken on an overall basis and not individual cases. Patients do come through the emergency department and are assessed and the decision for admission is taken by the clinical team. Patients are admitted when required and, by and large, beds are available when needed. There is misunderstanding on the hours of duty. Mental health services are provided 24 hour basis, seven days a week."

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