Nurses 'brokenhearted' over treatment of psychiatric patients at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny

Mary Cody

Reporter:

Mary Cody

Email:

mary.cody@kilkennypeople.ie

Nurses 'brokenhearted' over treatment of psychiatric patients at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny

Makeshift beds at the Department of Psychiatry

A number of patients at the Department of Psychiatry in St Luke’s General Hospital have been forced to sleep on makeshift beds for over 48 hours and endure ‘atrocious’ conditions, according to a staff member.
Shocking pictures, taken inside the hospital, reveal couches being used as beds for distressed and vulnerable patients. Some staff are fearful of serious harm due to overcrowding. One staff member said that the Department is ‘not a safe place for admissions’.
“Overcrowding has become so serious her that staff are fearful of serious harm. The ward is not a safe place for admissions. Patients are at high risk of violence because of overcrowding. 
“They slept on mattresses on the ground next to each other. Third world conditions. To see it was atrocious and heart breaking. The ward is in crisis. Nurses are at breaking point.” 
The staff member also said that in certain circumstances some patients had ‘zero access to toilet facilities’ and were ‘denied dignity and respect’.
“Nursing staff are brokenhearted and mortified to think this is what the mental health service has to offer.” 
Meanwhile Deputy John Mc Guinness has raised his concerns in the Dáil and has raised the matter with Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris.
He also recently attended a protest outside the Department of Psychiatry at St Luke’s with members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association.
“They were protesting about the quality of care that they are able to give to patients in that facility. I have visited patients at this facility for a long time but it has not been updated. It requires significant capital expenditure and investment in staff.
“It is unfair to staff and to patients that the current situation would be allowed to continue,” he said. 
He told the Dáil that last week there were 51 patients in a 44-bed unit.
Patients were being admitted to sit on chairs on which they were asked to stay and sleep while waiting for a psychiatric service, and that is not good enough.
“Some of those there for the long term are in an inappropriate setting. They are waiting for placement elsewhere. People cannot get counselling services. 
“Some patients are being told they will have to wait for three to six months before they are seen. If one is in a community setting outside the hospital, the same waiting list prevails. How can one tell someone who is in a crisis regarding mental health that he or she will have to wait for three to six months?
“There are volunteer organisations on the ground, such as Taxi Watch founded by Derek Devoy. It monitors those who may be on the verge of suicide and brings them to the attention of relevant services. What can the services do when they are underfunded, understaffed and under pressure in the department of psychiatry? 
“I am not saying that for political purposes. Those central to delivering the care are saying it. The HSE is referring patients who are looking for counselling services to Teac Tom, a voluntary organisation in Kilkenny city. 
“It provides immediate, on-the-spot counselling services but the HSE refuses to pay for the service because it believes it is referring the individual to a service that is run on a voluntary basis. How can that be? How can the Minister of State allow that to continue?” he added.
Statement
The HSE has issued a statement aiming to reassure the public about patient welfare at the Department of Psychiatry at St Luke’s Hospital.
A HSE spokesperson said that they ‘would like to reassure the public that all of the staff within the South East Community Healthcare mental health services are committed to the provision of a quality and safe mental health service to the population of Carlow, Kilkenny and South Tipperary’.
The statement continued that ‘due to high clinical need for admission over the weekend January 12 to 14 inclusive, an exceptional circumstance developed regarding over-occupancy at the DOP Kilkenny whereby there were 52 residents being nursed and cared for in the 44-bedded acute psychiatric unit at 8am on January 15’.
After appropriate clinical review of in-patients by senior medical staff throughout the course of the day, the number of residents in the DOP had reduced to below 44 by 6pm on January 15.
According to the statement ‘an excellent team is in place at the DOP in Kilkenny to serve the needs of all those who require treatment and support’.
There are 45 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) nursing posts in place at the DOP in Kilkenny, in addition to other medical, specialist and support staff. 
The HSE continues to work with staff representatives in the development of mental health services at acute and community level across the South East. Meetings, as part of ongoing engagement with the Psychiatric Nurses Association are planned.

He told the Dáil that last week there were 51 patients in a 44-bed unit.
Patients were being admitted to sit on chairs on which they were asked to stay and sleep while waiting for a psychiatric service, and that is not good enough.
“Some of those there for the long term are in an inappropriate setting. They are waiting for placement elsewhere. People cannot get counselling services. 
“Some patients are being told they will have to wait for three to six months before they are seen. If one is in a community setting outside the hospital, the same waiting list prevails. How can one tell someone who is in a crisis regarding mental health that he or she will have to wait for three to six months?
“There are volunteer organisations on the ground, such as Taxi Watch founded by Derek Devoy. It monitors those who may be on the verge of suicide and brings them to the attention of relevant services. What can the services do when they are underfunded, understaffed and under pressure in the department of psychiatry? 
“I am not saying that for political purposes. Those central to delivering the care are saying it. The HSE is referring patients who are looking for counselling services to Teac Tom, a voluntary organisation in Kilkenny city. 
“It provides immediate, on-the-spot counselling services but the HSE refuses to pay for the service because it believes it is referring the individual to a service that is run on a voluntary basis. How can that be? How can the Minister of State allow that to continue?” he added.
Statement
The HSE has issued a statement aiming to reassure the public about patient welfare at the Department of Psychiatry at St Luke’s Hospital.
A HSE spokesperson said that they ‘would like to reassure the public that all of the staff within the South East Community Healthcare mental health services are committed to the provision of a quality and safe mental health service to the population of Carlow, Kilkenny and South Tipperary’.
The statement continued that ‘due to high clinical need for admission over the weekend January 12 to 14 inclusive, an exceptional circumstance developed regarding over-occupancy at the DOP Kilkenny whereby there were 52 residents being nursed and cared for in the 44-bedded acute psychiatric unit at 8am on January 15’.
After appropriate clinical review of in-patients by senior medical staff throughout the course of the day, the number of residents in the DOP had reduced to below 44 by 6pm on January 15.
According to the statement ‘an excellent team is in place at the DOP in Kilkenny to serve the needs of all those who require treatment and support’.
There are 45 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) nursing posts in place at the DOP in Kilkenny, in addition to other medical, specialist and support staff. 
The HSE continues to work with staff representatives in the development of mental health services at acute and community level across the South East. Meetings, as part of ongoing engagement with the Psychiatric Nurses Association are planned.