Minister briefed on need to keep hospital unit open

The fight to keep St. Michael’s Hospital in Clonmel open was brought to government buildings last week when nine consultant psychiatrists from South Tipperary, Carlow and Kilkenny had an hour-long meeting with Kathleen Lynch, Minister of state at the Department of Health.

The fight to keep St. Michael’s Hospital in Clonmel open was brought to government buildings last week when nine consultant psychiatrists from South Tipperary, Carlow and Kilkenny had an hour-long meeting with Kathleen Lynch, Minister of state at the Department of Health.

Dr. Caitriona Crowe, speaking on behalf of the consultants, said that while the Minister was very courteous and respectful of the views expressed she made no commitment to keep the hospital open.

Dr. Crowe said the consultants told the Minister that they all fully subscribed to Vision for Change and were happy to work towards its rational and safe implementation. However they stated they hadn’t been consulted about the original blueprint for the service and there had been no options appraisal of all the alternatives when the planned closure of St. Michael’s unit was announced.

She said new skills and new teams needed to be embedded before beds were closed because the resources in place now were much less than when the plans were first made. Nursing retirements and the moratorium on recruitment in the public service had to be taken into account, as well as the likely reduction in the number of junior doctors nationally.

Concerns were also expressed about governance issues and the lack of allied health professionals available for the new teams.

Dr. Crowe said the deputation also told the Minister that international evidence showed that home treatment teams, when they started functioning in their first year, increased the need for in-patient beds; and with the closure of beds there was evidence of higher rates of patients being detained involuntarily in hospital under the Mental Health Act.