The HSE has denied it is “fast-tracking” the closure of a psychiatric unit in Ballinasloe, but accepted it would be closed by the end of the year as part of its policy of re-integrating patients back to society from such institutions.
Local TD Denis Naughten claimed this week the HSE plans to fast-track the closure of the 22-bed acute psychiatric unit at St Brigid’s Hospital, Ballinasloe.
However, a spokesperson for the HSE West said: “I can categorically clarify there is absolutely no truth in the allegation that St Brigid’s Acute unit in Ballinasloe is closing today and it is a damaging and worrying untruth that could upset patients”.
Deputy Naughten had stated: “Earlier this year I was informed by the HSE that while an assessment of the units in both Ballinasloe and Roscommon was to commence during 2013, there was no immediate plan whatsoever to close either of the two units”.
Deputy Naughten claimed that because mental health services in the West have a higher rate of involuntary psychiatric patients than the rest of the country, this places “additional pressures on acute psychiatric services”.
He went on to suggest that “If a full assessment of the acute psychiatric bed needs across the adjoining counties was completed, instead of looking at Roscommon/Galway in isolation, then there is a case for retaining acute psychiatric beds in Ballinasloe”.
However, the HSE spokesperson pointed out that its present strategy on mental health “is to move away from the old model of mental health custodial care - institutionally based - and towards a modern, holistic, community-based mental health service” which has already led to a reduction in acute bed days at the Ballinasloe facility from 100,000 in 2002 to 17,000 in 2012.
Currently there are 79 acute beds between Galway, Roscommon, and Ballinasloe, and the HSE strategy recommends this is reduced to 57.
“The existing unit in Ballinasloe will cease to provide acute inpatient beds from the end of 2013 but will provide enhanced community based mental health care,” said the spokesperson.
“There will be no impact for current inpatients in Ballinasloe as the bed reduction will take place on a phased basis. The impact for future users will be offset by the fact that there will be a corresponding development of specialist community services where the philosophy of care is focused on prevention and early detection to prevent and reduce admissions,” she said.
“There will be no job losses in the Galway-Roscommon mental health services as staff will be redeployed to community mental health services. Galway-Roscommon was successful in securing a significant number of new development posts in both 2012 and 2013 when an additional 44 staff posts were approved for the service,” she concluded.