Mental health services in ‘crisis’, claims local councillor

Mental health services in the west are being stretched to the limit in the wake of swingeing health cuts imposed by the HSE.

More than 1,000 people a year are being admitted to psychiatric units in Galway while almost 100 mental health nursing posts remain vacant here due to the health service recruitment ban.

A report on activity in psychiatric units and hospitals published recently by the Health Research Board (HRB ) reveals that 1,084 people were admitted to psychiatric facilities in Galway in 2009. Almost 1,200 people were admitted the previous year.

A total of 594 people were admitted to the psychiatric unit at University Hospital Galway in 2009 while 472 were admitted to St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe. An additional 18 requiring psychiatric care were admitted to Merlin Park Hospital.

The HSE West had the highest number of patients presenting to psychiatric units with “organic” psychiatric disorders - these can be caused by structural disease such as a brain tumour, epilepsy, degenerative changes, eg, Alzheimer’s dementia and brain trauma - which can include anxiety and bipolar disorders.

The west also had the highest number of admissions to psychiatric units for mania, alcoholic disorders, intellectual disabilities, developmental disorders and behavioural disorders in children and adolescents.

Fine Gael General Election candidate for Galway West Cllr Brian Walsh describes the local figures as “shocking”. He says they confirm that mental health services in Galway are in “crisis” and cannot withstand further cuts by the HSE this year.

“Mental health services in the region have been starved of resources by the HSE and in these statistics we are seeing the tragic result,” he said. “These are stressful times when people who seek help must be assured that it will be provided. However, the service has been ravaged by last year’s health cuts and the HSE moratorium on recruitment, and is now clearly in crisis.”

There are almost 300 nursing posts in the mental health service currently vacant in the HSE West area as a result of the moratorium on recruitment, he says. Nearly 100 of the unfilled positions are located in Galway.

“It must be a top priority for the next government to address the dearth of resources which has brought a service to its knees that cares for its people when they are at their most vulnerable,” added Cllr Walsh.

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