Bantry mental health unit loses beds but new centre promised

January 25th, 2023 11:45 AM

By Emma Connolly

Bantry Hospital: the HSE has opted not to appeal a plan to cut mental health beds. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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THE Centre for Mental Health Care & Recovery at Bantry General Hospital will see its beds reduced from 18 to 15, instead of the originally planned 11. 

There was widespread anger when the Mental Health Commission (MHC) announced it planned to cut the beds to 11 last year. 

The HSE had appealed the decision, but has now withdrawn that appeal, a move which has attracted criticism from local TDs. However, FF TD Christopher O’Sullivan said the HSE has confirmed to him it is planning an entirely new centre.

On foot of engagement between the parties this week, the MHC revised its original condition of reducing beds, on the basis the HSE will complete works to address ligature risks and make the building safer and more appropriate for residents. 

The HSE has agreed to limit the number of residents at the approved centre, until such time as all proposed works to remove ligature risks and provide additional communal space have been completed so residents are safe, and the building is brought into compliance with regulatory requirements.

Chief executive of the MHC, John Farrelly said the Commission would monitor the condition attached to the centre in the interests of patient safety. ‘We have revised the condition as we have received sufficient reassurances and commitments from them that will address the issues at hand,’ he said.

But Deputy Michael Collins slammed the HSE for withdrawing their appeal and called it a ‘glaring mistake’. ‘The HSE had told me they would appeal this decision and promised me as late as last month at a meeting that they would retain all 18 much-needed beds,’ he said.

‘At a time when more beds and a state-of-the-art mental health facility was required in Bantry to serve the people of West Cork, we now find ourselves losing beds at a critical time for so many,’ the Goleen deputy added.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns said the ‘compromise’ will result in the loss of three badly-needed beds.

‘Once this issue arose last year, I was contacted by countless people who shared their stories of the vital service the unit provides,’ she said. ‘It is truly shocking that State bodies would even consider closing any of these critical beds.  

‘What will now happen to people who need those beds?’ she asked. ‘Are they going to be sent to other acute mental health units which are already overcrowded? The people of West Cork rightly value Bantry Hospital because it is an excellent local service, that is its key strength. Transferring patients unnecessarily to Cork is in no-one’s interest.’      

Meanwhile, TD Christopher O’Sullivan said while the bed reduction wasn’t good news in the interim, ‘it must be noted that because of this agreement, the HSE have now agreed to put €1.7m of funding into the unit to bring the capacity back up to 18.’

He said he thought it was a much better situation than what was potentially on the cards if there was no investment, ie a reduction to 11 beds.

‘Furthermore, the HSE have confirmed to me that they are scoping out a replacement centre for the current one as, in their words, they need to develop a centre purpose-built for a modern service requirement and work has commenced on developing a statement of purpose for such a development,’ he concluded.

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