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SIPTU nursing chief slams HSE West plan

SIPTU nursing chief says HSE West plan will hit front-line services

Trevor Quinn

SIPTU’s Nursing Sector President, Padraig Heverin has described the scale of the reductions in the HSE West Service Plan which has been decreased by more than €104 million as a ‘retrograde’ step which will hit front-line services.
Early last week it was announced that the HSE West Service Plan 2012 which focuses on delivering health services in Mayo and across the western seaboard will have a net decrease of €104.8 million or a 5.2 per cent reduction.
Last week there was also a big blow for mental health services in Mayo when it was announced that the five-bed residential psychiatric unit located at Ballina District Hospital will close. The closure will mean that patients using the five bed facility who require 24-hour-services will be forced to travel to Castlebar for treatment.
Mr Heverin recently confirmed to The Mayo News that as a result of the Government’s early retirement scheme Mayo is potentially set to lose 15 psychiatric nurses in 2012. The number of psychiatric nurses in the county has already fallen from 149 to 137 during the past two years.
Mr Heverin said that it is deeply worrying that front-line services continue to be adversely targeted. He continued,  “The reduction in the Mayo mental health budget from 2007 to 2011 was €3.5 million. Meanwhile the reduction in the overall nursing budget during the same period was €3.6 million, so I would say it’s disproportionate.”
Mr Heverin said while the mental health budget has been decreased considerably during the past four years, funding for medical, surgical, clerical and support services such as health care assistants and psychologists has remained untouched and not been affected.
Speaking about the closure of the psychiatric unit at Ballina District Hospital Deputy Michelle Mulherin has said that after consultation by the Ballina Project Group with patients and their families it was accepted that it would be a progressive step to transfer the patients out of the hospital.
Deputy Mulherin continued, “The Ballina Project Group, comprising Consultants, Director of Nursing and others directly involved in caring for the patients, found that the current facilities for residential care in Ballina were below standard to such an extent that the environment is counter-therapeutic.
She added “These beds will close together with the three respite beds. However it is hoped that the small number of patients who have required respite care will benefit from a more robust assertive outreach service in their homes so as to minimise the need for respite facilities. Otherwise they will be cared for at An Coillin Unit in Castlebar.”
The HSE has accepted a recommendation from the Ballina Project Group, comprising of medical professionals directly involved in caring for the patients, that the day-care service remains open.

HAVE YOUR SAY email trevorquinn@mayonews.ie with your comments