INDEPENDENT TD Luke Ming Flanagan said the testimonies he heard last night at a public meeting in Ballinasloe about the facilities of the psychiatric unit at University Hospital Galway (UHG) were shocking.
There was a large attendance at the meeting where people discussed the phased closure of St. Bridgid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe which has resulted in 50 beds moving to Galway and 22 to Roscommon.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie today, Flanagan said that some clinicians of the hospital attended the meeting, with one clinician breaking down on the verge of tears when talking about the decision to close St Brigid’s.
The facilities at the psychiatric unit are totally unsuitable, he said, stating that there are just three showers and one bath for 31 psychiatric patients. He added that the temperature controls are not working, resulting in scalding water.
Most concerning, he said, was a roof leak over the unit. “I believe there is a duck pond on top of the roof there, resulting in it leaking in on top of patients. This means that patients ended up sleeping in wet beds,” he said.
The HSE issued a statement on the matter which says:
Given the exceptionally high winds (highest on record) and storm damage that has ravaged the west of Ireland over the last 24 hours the HSE is reviewing many properties for leaks and damage.
The roof in the Acute Psychiatric Unit (GUH) has been examined and there was minimal repair to be undertaken. There was a single water drop that was affecting one location and it occurred only with specific wind direction. This repair was carried out yesterday and is completed and the unit is fully functioning.
They added that “all showers in UHG are working and there are no water issues. Staff have requested that one bathroom be converted to a shower room to suit patient needs, we are currently working towards this”.
This morning, TDs Denis Naughton and Colm Keaveney and Senator Michael Mullins went to UHG and asked to see the unit where the patients were being kept, however, they were not allowed in due to “patient confidentiality reason”.
Flanagan said the facility is over 40 years old, and that “if you didn’t have a mental health problem going in, you certainly would coming out”.
“Speaking as a person who has suffered from mental health issues, I ask myself what to do. I used to be afraid to engage in the services because of what you would hear about it, stories like these, but I ask, what do I do? Do I sit on my hands about this? If I had mental health issues today, I would be just as scared as I was then about the services, not the staff, who are exemplary but the facilities,” he said.
He said that not allowing the delegation into the hospital unit to see the conditions was “suspicious” and “worrying”.
Elected members Denis Naughton, Colm Keaveney, Frank Feighan and Michael Mullins, also attended the meeting last night. The Mayor of Galway Pádraig Conneely who was also in attendance described the psychiatric unit’s conditions as being in the “dark ages”.
Denis Naughton said on his Facebook page following the meeting that he was “ashamed” to hear of the conditions patients were facing.
There has been increasing pressure to review the decision that all new mental health patients from Ballinasloe must now attend the psychiatric unit at University Hospital Galway.
The HSE said in their statement today that they are developing a state of the art purpose built acute psychiatry unit in Galway University Hospital with 50 beds including speciality beds and mother and baby facilities. “The first sod will be turned shortly on this development,” said the HSE.
They added that the reconfiguration of mental health services is a major investment in jobs and facilities in Galway and Roscommon with an additional 44 permanent staff posts at a cost of €2.6 million, adding “the reconfiguration is purely based on improving outcomes for patients. The HSE will continue to work with service users, GPs, staff and their representatives to ensure that patients in Galway Roscommon have access to the best mental health services available,” they concluded.