The reopening of the psychiatric unit at St Brigid’s Hospital in Ardee should be made a priority by the HSE, Independent councillor Jim Tenanty has stated, in light of the report published by the Mental Health Commission that found “an almost total absence” of community mental health services nationwide.
The report indicated a lack of access to mental health beds for adults across the State, based on research conducted on each one of the HSE’s CHOs (Community Healthcare Organisations), with an audit of beds taken in November 2018.
A total of 1,050 acute public mental health beds were registered as of November 2018, the report states, which equates to 22.05
beds per 100,000 general population. It found that despite recommendations that the Louth/Meath area have 54 beds for adult mental health patients, only 46 are currently available for use.
The review also found that as a consequence of a shortage of available beds, the prolonged stays of people experiencing mental illness in acute mental health units is having a significant impact on access to acute beds and accompanying supports.
It also found that there was a severe lack of acute mental health beds for older adults nationwide although the Louth/Meath region does not fare too badly on that front – with eight beds available compared to the recommended number of nine for the two counties.
Cllr Tenanty believes that reopening the dedicated psychiatric unit at St Brigid’s in Ardee would alleviate stress on A&E departments and on the vulnerable patients themselves. He said that those patients who avail of non-mental health specific services from the HSE do not receive adequate follow up care.
“There is no follow up support for psychiatric, mental heath patients across the country. There is no support whatsoever,” he told LouthNow.ie.
“Mental health patients do not want to attend Accident and Emergency departments. They are congested and undermanned. Attending those clinics, they have to wait a long time for a doctor to see them. Then, their medications either go up or down. That’s it.
“Because the system has changed, mental health patients are being neglected,” he added. In reference to St Brigid’s in Ardee, Tenanty said; “The facility – brick and mortar facility – is there but the supports aren’t.”
The acute admissions psychiatric unit in St Brigid’s Hospital in Ardee was closed as the HSE looked to move to a centralised acute service out at Crosslanes in Drogheda in 2015.
That left St Ita’s Ward as the sole remaining unit still operating at the facility.
You can read the full report from the Mental Health Commission, by clicking here.