THE lack of child and adolescent mental health services, (CAMHS) in Cork was raised by a number of deputies in the Dáil.
Sinn Fein Deputy Pat Buckley said that since January, it has been particularly difficult to maintain the non-consultant hospital doctors’ on-call rota for the two Cork city emergency departments, due to a combination of vacancies, sick leave and other factors.
‘However, further resignations and sick leave have compounded the service difficulties,’ he said.
Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said recently there was nobody available from the CAMHS teams to see anyone who presented in Cork city.
‘If a child presented as self-harming or suicidal at the accident and emergency departments of either the Mercy Hospital or Cork University Hospital, there was no psychiatrist there to see them,’ he said. ‘That situation beggars belief.’
Fianna Fáil Deputy Billy Kelleher said some of the replies he had got back to recent parliamentary questions are quite alarming in terms of the length of time people are waiting for services from CAMHS in the Cork/Kerry region.
‘We knew there were going to be huge difficulties because of the slow recruitment process,’ he said. ‘Now that is evidenced on a daily basis in Cork and Kerry and throughout the country.’
In reply, Minister of State Helen McEntee said CAMHS services in Cork have eight community-based teams. ‘Two of the teams have consultant vacancies, namely team C – Western Road, and North Lee North,’ she said. ‘Team C has had a vacant psychology post since Christmas 2016, but the executive recently secured a person to fill this post. There have been widely acknowledged difficulties in recruiting and retaining specialist CAMHS staff, particularly consultant psychiatrists, which all of the deputies have recognised. Recruitment efforts have been ongoing including local and international advertising for a locum consultant in Cork, which have not yielded any success. Unfortunately, there is currently a serious shortage of suitably qualified CAMHS consultants at both national and European level.’
She said the HSE is working to provide the best possible service within available staffing resources. ‘A key focus is on managing clinical risks and prioritising referrals accordingly,’ she said. ‘All efforts are being made to support teams with additional therapy and administrative resources, notwithstanding the consultant vacancy, to ensure that the best possible service is provided.’
Meanwhile, the ‘epidemic’ of planning permission grants for solar farms over the past 12 months to keep Ireland lighting 24/7 needs to be dealt with legislatively and guidelines need to be put in place, Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard told the Seanad.
Recently in Kinsale, he said, planning permission was granted for another solar farm by An Bord Pleanála against its own inspector’s report. ‘Proper legislation needs to be put in place,’ he said. ‘When the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, addresses the issue of renewable energy feed-in tariffs in the next few months, he will have to look at the number of solar farms, because we have a major glut of them. An Bord Pleanála’s decision proved we have a glut – with the inspector doing one thing and the Board doing another. This is an important issue and we need to legislate for guidelines in this area sooner rather than later.’