The recent decision by the HSE, Mental Health Commission and Government to transfer acute mental health services in Tipperary to Ennis General Hospital is an outrageous decision and will cause major disruption to long stay patients. Further to the closure of St. Michael’s Unit in South Tipperary General Hospital Clonmel any acute inpatient admissions in North Tipperary will be now be directed to Ennis. Essentially any person in the North Tipperary area requiring a long stay bed for mental health reasons will be forced to travel to Clare. Community Care facilities and out patient facilities pertaining to mental health will continue in this constituency.
This move can only be described as an attack on some of the most vulnerable members of society and a complete departure from previous governments policy in regards to mental health.
It was never intended for such services to leave the constituency. It was planned and proposed by the HSE and past administration to create a comprehensive centre for the treatment of all aspects of mental health in the grounds of Nenagh General Hospital. This centre would not only have long stay beds but also out patient services and community care services, creating an all embracing mental healthcare centre in one location. Now less than nine months after the current government coming to power this decision seems to have been completely forgotten about and instead North Tipperary patients will be referred to Ennis, a hospital that is already struggling to cope with its own patient numbers. Ennis will now serve all long stay mental health patients from Tipperary North and South. This is totally unacceptable. The current Government may attempt to point the finger to the past administration but serious explanations need to be given by them as the reasons this service is being lost.
This to me is a completely illogical and unfair decision. It is an insult to the people of North Tipperary to deal with such essential services in a cavalier way. By imposing such a journey we are adding additional burdens, stresses and costs to those who have been diagnosed with an acute, recognized, medical need for mental health services. It is important to highlight exactly how this will affect patients; they will be removed from an environment in which they are comfortable and familiar. It is outrageous that they will now be made drive the considerable distance from Tipperary to Ennis, past the hospitals in Limerick, to avail of treatment. Many of these patients may be in a fragile state and such travel will further their stress and anxiety. Additional this will add huge cost and time implications to the families of those in these care centers who wish to travel to visit their loved ones on a regular basis.
This move is due to come into effect at the end of October. I will be petitioning the Government, the HSE and the Mental Health Commission to consider alternatives rather than continuing with this nonsensical plan to disrupt and upset long stay patients.