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‘Suicidal man’ turned away from Roscommon psychiatric unit

The unit of Roscommon County Hospital was shut at the weekend because of staff shortages.

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Updated 9.40pm

IT WAS REVEALED earlier today that the Acute Psychiatric Services Unit at Roscommon County Hospital was closed to admissions last weekend because of a staffing crisis, leading to one ‘suicidal’ man being turned away.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association told TheJournal.ie that the incident occurred after a decision was taken on Friday to suspend all admissions.

“People were taken in taxis to Galway, where they were subsequently sent home,” PNA National Secretary, Noel Giblin, explained. “University Hospital Galway had to keep beds for emergencies so the situation created a bottleneck there and added to the problem.”

Giblin said the action taken at the weekend was further indication that the services in the area are “in freefall”.

“You cannot lose over 50 professional nursing staff from a vital service as has happened in Roscommon Psychiatric Services without it having a serious impact on those services,” he continued.

There is growing concern for the safety of patients and staff in the services to breaking point.

Staff nursing levels have dropped from 111 in 2009 to 58 this year. Despite three short-term contracts being handed out by the HSE and an attempt to hire agency staff, the crisis was not averted last weekend.

The patient, who described himself as suicidal to Ciara McCaughley in the Roscommon Herald, was discharged from the Galway hospital on Saturday. He said he had seen spare beds in the unit but knew there wasn’t “enough staff”.

Public worry

Concerns for the nurses working in the unit have been voiced following a number of assaults in recent weeks.

A public meeting last week heard from one staff member who said she was “ashamed” to work in the service.

“Our nurses our stressed,” said Giblin. “They are working in very difficult situations but they are still doing their best. They are the best staff in the country. They are pleading with management to intervene.

It is not safe. Patients are not getting service. Staff are reporting very clearly that they do not feel safe. People have been demoralised and it is very worrying.

The death of a mother-of-two, reported by this website last week, also sparked anger locally. According to the PNA, community services are undeveloped and inadequate as community staff have been redeployed to fill gaps in the Acute Unit. Currently, there are just four community psychiatric nurses for the entire county.

There is also no suicide prevention team and just one addiction counsellor.

Calls have been made for extra staff to be recruited immediately. “We are calling on Minister Lynch to demand that action is taken to ensure that the people in Roscommon have access to properly staffed and resourced psychiatric services that they can have confidence in,” concluded Giblin.

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