St Brigid’s campaigners continue fight as Seanad motion defeated

HSE attempt to remove five psychiatric beds stopped by protesters

Campaign groups have vowed to continue their fight to maintain psychiatric beds at St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe, after a motion aimed at saving the 22-bed psychiatric unit was defeated in the Seanad on Wednesday.

Up to 200 people travelled to Leinster House in Dublin on Wednesday to highlight their concerns and to support the motion put forward by Fianna Fáil senators calling for a full independent review of the decision to shut down the €3.1 million acute mental health unit at St Brigid’s Hospital.

Just 24 hours earlier, a group of protesters had forcibly prevented workers from transporting five beds from the psychiatric unit.

Speaking after the vote was defeated in the Seanad, Arthur Carr, member of Galway East Life Support Group and East Galway Mental Health Action Group told the Advertiser that campaigners “will not give up the fight until the last breath is gone” and that a vigil will be maintained at St Brigid’s in Ballinasloe until “politicians see sense”.

He explained that over 500 people signed up to a text alert system following a public meeting at Gullane’s Hotel last Sunday.

“We are going to maintain our vigil - they will not be taking any more beds out. As soon as there is a hint of a van at the unit we will come out. We got 200 people there in half an hour on Tuesday evening,” said Mr Carr.

“It’s just not acceptable. The scoring system was done in 2006 as part of the ‘Vision for Change’ with the intention of improving mental health services, instead they have dismantled it. Twelve to 15 people a week are lost to suicide in Ireland; closing our mental health units is just not the way to do it.”

Deputy Denis Naughten, who spoke with protesters at Leinster House on Wednesday, said he was disappointed with the vote, and feared for the future of Roscommon services.

“I am particularly disappointed that two Roscommon Senators, John Kelly and Terry Leyden, absented themselves. They have let the people of south Roscommon and East Galway down. If they had attended the action group meetings, they would have known that Roscommon will be next. The long-term plan of the HSE is to have 50 psychiatric beds for Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon, so the beds in Roscommon will be surplus to requirements. Because the HSE have gone ahead with the closure of the Ballinasloe unit, the acute psychiatric unit in Roscommon is also under threat.”

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