The public are being urged to support a public protest in Ballinasloe on Sunday over the HSE’s plans to close 22 psychiatric beds at St Brigid’s Hospital.
Demonstrators will assemble in the library carpark at 12.30pm. The event will start at 1pm, going through Society Street, Main Street, then on to the New Road up by Lidl and finishing up at St Michael’s Square. Speakers will address the crowd after the march.
The protest takes place as feelings run high among unions, political parties and the local community over the controversial plan to close the acute beds and transfer resources to Roscommon.
Noel Giblin, the national secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association, insists the loss of the beds without having community services in place is an “abuse” of the Vision for Change [the report of the expert group on mental health policy] strategy.
“The HSE policy of closing Ballinasloe while community services are not in place was never part of the Vision for Change. The strategy does suggest 50 beds per 300,000 population, however this is when you have all elements of Vision for Change in place, particularly the full range of community services. Vision for Change is not so much that you need to remove beds more that the needs for beds is removed, while the HSE West is using Vision as a means of cutting beds without having the community supports in place to meet the demand for services.
“The reality of the mental health services in Galway/Roscommon is that 32 acute beds are being taken out of the system while there is no acute mental health teams - these would reduce admissions by treating people with acute mental health issues in their own home. There would be a need for 48 nurses to resource these teams. There is also no mental health of older person’s team in Roscommon - there is limited mental health of older people teams in the region also.”
He says the removal of these beds will put pressure on both Roscommon and on Galway University Hospitals “with patients numbers exceeding the bed requirement”.
“There is huge anger in the community at the loss of these beds and people across Roscommon and Galway will be voicing their opposition to this move at the public protest in Ballinasloe on Sunday.”
Sinn Fein health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described the HSE decision as “another backward step”.
“I understand that this downgrading of mental health services in east Galway runs contrary to previous commitments given that St. Brigid’s Hospital would not lose beds or services. This is another backward step by the HSE which seems to have more to do with bookkeeping than the health and safety of patients. Yet €2.8 million over the past two years was spent on upgrading St Brigid’s. Community services are not being put in place.”