03 Jul 2022

Editorial: Department of Psychiatry in Kilkenny not fit for purpose and staff struggling

This week's editorial

BREAKING: Threatened strike action at Department of Psychiatry at St Luke's Hospital

File pic of makeshift beds at the Department of Psychiatry

The Government appears to be willfully ignoring basic facts when it comes to mental health services in this county.

The Department of Psychiatry in St Luke’s Hospital has endured months of overcrowding, the dedicated staff are fearful for patients’ safety and for their own. These are facts.

A total review of psychiatric services for Kilkenny and its surrounding areas is needed. Yes, on that we can all agree, but action and the implementation of real improvements to the staffing levels and the DoP’s capacity, need to be delivered on.

No improvements have been made in the lifetime of this Government, there has been no investment in the unit’s capacity, no investment in the the DoP’s resources, nothing. In 2011, a decision was made for St Michael’s unit in Clonmel to be closed.

This led to the transfer of acute services to the DoP in Kilkenny, which would then serve here, Carlow and south Tipperary.That’s seven years ago.

Yet, we trundle on from month to month with revelations of “atrocious conditions” on site, people sleeping in makeshift beds, and now staff have been forced into planned industrial action. To date, none of this has made a blind bit of difference to the Government’s attitude.

The families of patients, the families of staff working in the DoP, their anger and disappointment at the latest round of Government inaction and ineptitude must be overwhelming.

It’s likely they can’t wait to get to a polling station or have their local TD or Minister knock on their door. The facility is simply not adequately equipped or staffed to meet the demands of Kilkenny, let alone Tipperary, Carlow and other counties.

It’s a 44-bed acute psychiatric unit serving hundreds of thousands of people in the South-East. How could it be fit for purpose? The DoP is a vital service and the staff there deliver week after week despite the trying circumstances.

A review, yes. Then we need a Government that won’t renege on promises to improve mental health services.

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