The family of a psychiatrically ill patient who had to queue for hours at University Hospital Galway’s A&E department before being admitted were “very upset” at what they termed the change in admission policy for such patients, according to the chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum.
Cllr Padraig Conneely said this occurred at a time when the level of mental illness is increasing in this country.
He said the family of the patient - who has a 20-year involvement with the local psychiatric service - claimed that in the past people with psychiatric illnesses could go to their GPs and get an admission letter directly for the psychiatric unit, which is located at the rear of UHG. This meant they could by-pass the A&E department.
“It is wrong that a mental patient has to go into A&E and sit in a queue with other patients for hours upon hours to be assessed. This person has been a patient of the [psychiatric] unit for 15 or 20 years. Now the HSE or some genius doctor cannot directly admit them. The family were very upset having to sit for hours upon hours in A&E waiting for the patient to be assessed.”
Afterwards he told this newspaper that it was “not appropriate” that such patients were not being admitted directly to the unit.
“When the family went to the GP the doctor told the patient he could not give a letter of admission because the HSE had stopped this practice. The patient would now have to go to A&E for assessment and the decision regarding admission would be made there.
“The family was very upset and had to queue in the emergency department and wait for a medical person from the psychiatric unit to make an assessment. This to me is a backward step.John Hennessy, the HSE West’s regional director of operations, explained that admission to hospital through A&E is for emergencies only. In the case of routine admissions patients are referred to the unit in question by their GP.