The delay in opening the new psychiatric unit at University Hospital Galway "is completely unacceptable" especially when the old unit is stretched to overcapacity, and a state of the art 20-bed unit in St Brigid’s in Ballinasloe remains closed.
This is the view of the Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly, who has tabled a series of questions to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, in relation to the delayed opening.
It is understood the new 50-bed unit was to have opened last December - although that date itself was following a previous delay. Assurances were then given that the unit would open this month, once the building regulations had been addressed. "It is now the end of March and there is no sign of the building being opened," said Dep Connolly. "The delay is very worrying given the extraordinary pressures on the current psychiatric facility. The reason given, that compliance with building regulations is being sought, beggars belief. It is time the HSE explain clearly the reasons the unit cannot be opened immediately."
The current facility at UHG has a 45-bed capacity, but Dep Connolly understands there were 51 patients in the unit last week. She has also alleged that "vulnerable people" requiring mental health services are "simply walking out of an overburdened Accident and Emergency". Furthermore, the Mental Health Commission, which visits the facility on an annual basis, has repeatedly highlighted the "inadequacy of the current building, lack of privacy, and overcrowding", and has alleged this has lead to a patient sleeping on the floor.
Also, according to Dep Connolly, the state of the art 20-bed unit in St Brigid’s in Ballinasloe never opened on the basis that a new unit would be opened in Galway city with significantly increased capacity. "Yet here we are in 2018," she said, "five years after a refusal to open the state of the art facility, and we still don’t have the promised new building."