Press Release

Statement by Kathleen Lynch TD, re Mental Health Services in Galway and Roscommon

Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch TD, today affirmed her view that acute mental health services at the University College Hospital Galway are being delivered safely and that the overall re-configuration of services in the Galway-Roscommon region is in the best interests of services users.

Minister Lynch was responding to a claim by Colm Keaveney TD, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health, who expressed alarm over the acute mental health services in Galway, and in particular his concerns about patient safety at the psychiatric unit at University College Hospital Galway. In response to an urgent request from Minister Lynch to the HSE, to respond to the issues raised by Deputy Keaveney, the HSE has today outlined the current position, as follows:

Bed numbers in Galway city have increased to 45, and not 42, as indicated by Deputy Keaveney. This bed capacity has been operational since February of this year, and at no time has this bed occupancy level been exceeded.  For example, the HSE notes that on Monday of this week, the bed occupancy was 40, on Tuesday it was 39, and today (Thursday 22/5) there are 39 patients occupying beds – with five patients on approved leave for varying lengths of time, and approved by their treating team. Therefore, there is no pressure on physical bed occupancy at the present time.

Since the increase in bed capacity, the local HSE has also improved the clinical governance, with two Assistant Directors of Nursing and also an additional two Senior Nurse Managers.  This is in addition to a range of new staff and services, including the redeployment of nurses from Ballinasloe.

The HSE points out that the Clinical Director, together with the Nurse Managers, conduct daily assessments on staffing requirements to ensure a safe service at all times. The Mental Health Commission also regularly visits the service. Staff in the Acute Unit at University Hospital Galway are confident that they can meet the needs of current inpatients, and are also able to meet the needs of those referred for assessments.

The HSE acknowledges that there was a death of a service user last week, and this has been reported to the Mental Health Commission, and internally, in line with HSE protocols. An internal review is currently underway.

To date, the HSE has no indication that the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) are to visit the unit, but if and when they do, the Executive will cooperate fully with them, as is always the case.

It is also important to point out that the Health and Safety Officer who sent a letter to the HSA recently, as referred to in the Deputy’s statement, did not communicate any concerns to management, from a health and safety perspective, as would be normal practice in the service.