BY JACKIE KEOGH
A REPORT that shows a sharp decline in standards at Bantry’s Centre for Mental Health has been described as ‘deeply worrying,’ by West Cork TD, Michael Collins.
The Mental Health Commission (MHC) – which inspects in-patient mental health facilities – has warned of ‘a significant governance and management deficit’ within the country’s mental health services.
Of the seven approved adult centres registered with the MHC in Cork county, only two showed an improvement, while Bantry recorded ‘a significantly worse result from its 2017 inspection.’
Conor Hayes of the MHC confirmed that there was a 10% drop to 77% and that there are non-compliance issues within Bantry’s mental health service relating to ‘physical health, the premises, medication management, staff training, record keeping, complaints procedure, and codes of practice on physical restraint and admission transfer and discharge.’
Mr Hayes said the commission was told that a system has been put in place to monitor physical health requirements and medication management and that staff training and work on the premises are ‘ongoing.’ And he said the commission would continue to monitor the implementation plan.
Deputy Collins, who raised the issue in the Dáil on Wednesday, said the findings ‘highlight the need to recruit and retain staff at the mental health centre,’ which is located in the grounds of Bantry General Hospital.
The independent TD said he was concerned about claims that staff are being put under severe pressure and that community nurses are being redeployed to work on wards instead of in the field.
He said: ‘These community staff do vital work in ensuring that people stay out of hospital because they provide a multitude of different supports.’
The TD also expressed his concern that some members of staff are becoming stressed to the point of ill-health.
Deputy Collins alleged that the situation has resulted in patient appointments being cancelled. But a spokesperson for the Health Service Executive said that while rescheduling may occur, they are ‘not aware of any complaints from members of the public about cancelled appointments.’
It is, however, HSE policy to sometimes move staff between locations as part of its provision of mental health services.
A statement issued by the HSE said: ‘We are confident that staffing levels at the centre allow for the continuation of this high quality and valuable service.’
The statement also noted that none of the non-compliance issues raised by the MHC were rated as ‘critical.’
In highlighting the issue, Deputy Collins said he does not believe that the use of agency staff to plug gaps in the system is cost-efficient.
‘By not addressing the situation in a meaningful way,’ he said, ‘the HSE are kicking the can down the road.’
Meanwhile, the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association has confirmed that it has been ‘engaging with our membership over the past couple of months in relation to staffing issues in Bantry. The PNA has corresponded with the HSE regarding our concerns and we will be continuing to engage with our nurses on the ground in relation to this.’