Local Independent TD, Deputy Denis Naughten, has said the disclosure that not one additional cent of pandemic funding has been provided for mental health services in the region “will have long term consequences for individuals and families over the weeks and months ahead”.
“Across the region additional funding has been provided this winter by the HSE to enhance services for the care of older people, people with a disability and care in the community, which is all very welcome particularly after the pressure put on these services as a result of the pandemic.
“However, the fact that no additional funding is being provided to the mental health services, despite more people requiring support as a result of Covid-19, is clearly because Government has not prioritised this important issue.
“Consistently we hear Minister after Minister state that there has not been an increase in the rate of suicide, giving the impression that this is the only measure of the need for mental health services, which clearly is incorrect.
“We have acute mental health units across our region which are full to capacity leaving people requiring intensive support without a bed. On top of that mental health support networks and support services have been wound down because of social distancing restrictions.
“We already know that local services are underfunded. This was highlighted by the Roscommon Mental Health Inquiry and because of Covid-19 social distancing restrictions we should be expanding services not just keeping them ticking over.
“There is also ample evidence that confirms widespread psychological distress in Covid-19 affected communities. One such survey by the Covid-19 Psychological Research Consortium (C19PRC ) found that approximately one in three Irish adults was suffering from depression, anxiety or PTSD at each wave of Covid-19 infection.
“Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia and anxiety during this pandemic and we know that the reporting of domestic abuse has increased during the pandemic
“Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones and it is a fact that people with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to Covid-19 infection.
“The World Health Organisation has pointed out that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding, but Government seems to be ignoring this fact locally,” Deputy Naughten asserted.
Frontline workers must get additional leave
Meanwhile, Deputy Naughten has called for frontline workers who have been running our hospital and community services through two waves of the Covid-19 pandemic to be acknowledged with, at a minimum, additional paid leave.
“I first raised this issue 21 weeks ago and the Taoiseach promised me he would look at the possibility of providing frontline staff, who were both physically and mentally exhausted after the first wave of Covid infection, with additional leave. And now the Scottish Government has pledged to pay every NHS and social care worker a €500 bonus.
“All frontline workers within our health services or other services, including essential retail, should receive some acknowledgement from their employers of the trojan work they put in throughout 2020.
“In particular, I believe the time is now right for Government to recognise the work of all frontline health workers.
“Many of them made huge personal sacrifices during this time, including moving out of their homes and away from their families in some cases to keep them safe, while continuing to provide care not alone for those with Covid-19 but also others who needed hospital care during uncertain times.
“These healthcare workers have worked long hours in extremely difficult circumstances across two waves on the pandemic, and we must now stop and recognise the work they have done on behalf of us all.
“As a result, it is disappointing that even though the Taoiseach gave me a commitment to examine such a proposal when I presented it to him, nothing has happened.
“I would plead with Government to take up my proposal or follow the example set by the Scottish Government and provide frontline staff with an acknowledgement that recognises their sacrifices,” Deputy Naughten concluded.