Deaths caused by closure of psychiatric unit in Clonmel, meeting is told

Eamonn Wynne

Reporter:

Eamonn Wynne

Email:

ewynne@nationalist.ie

Mental health

The group Tipperary's Fight for Mental Health Services has organised a march in Clonmel on Saturday June 9, meeting at the Main Guard at 2.30

People had died since St. Michael's psychiatric hospital unit in Clonmel had closed seven years ago and lives were being put at risk by continued negligence.

That was the stark message sent to Health Minister Simon Harris by members of Clonmel Borough District at their monthly meeting.

Leading the calls for the re-opening of St. Michael's, District Mayor Catherine Carey said the number of people waiting on trolleys in South Tipperary General Hospital never exceeded 1,000 people a year prior to the closure of St. Michael's.

But since the closure of the unit in 2011 the numbers waiting on trolleys in South Tipp General Hospital had increased year after year, with 3,371 waiting on trolleys in 2016.

A former staff member at St. Michael's, Cllr. Carey said there were also a lot of people in prison who should be in a safer environment where their mental health would be properly looked after.

"These people shouldn't be behind bars. We are putting lives at risk by continued negligence", she said. 

Cllr. Pat English described the closure of St. Michael's as "a disaster".

"People had died since St. Michael's closed and that is heart-wrenching", he said.

He hoped they would be granted a face-to-face meeting with the minister in their campaign to have the unit re-opened.

Cllr. Marie Murphy understood that Jim Daly, Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, was sympathetic to claims that St. Michael's should never have been closed.

She and Cllr. Louise McLoughlin had contacted the Minister of State after the recent meeting in the Clonmel Park Hotel organised by the group Tipperary's Fight for Mental Health Services.  

Cllr. Siobhan Ambrose said that the absence of any crisis beds in the town or county for people suffering from mental health difficulties was "an appalling situation".

It was great that there was such a large attendance at the meeting in the Clonmel Park Hotel, which heard calls for the restoration of the mental health services.

Since psychiatric beds had been transferred from Clonmel to Kilkenny, the families of mental health patients had to transport them there in their own cars.

With €50 million funding earmarked for South Tipp General Hospital, Cllr. Ambrose hoped that a psychiatric unit could be incorporated in the general hospital.

Cllr. Martin Lonergan said that the mental health services in Clonmel had been decimated by the closure of St. Michael's and St. Luke's Hospital. They had heard "harrowing and heart-wrenching stories" at the meeting at the Clonmel Park Hotel.

Cllr. Andy Moloney said as part of its campaign, Tipperary's Fight for Mental Health Services had organised a march for Clonmel on Saturday June 9th. He praised Tipperary's TDs for working "tirelessly" in the Dáil on this issue.

Cllr. Michael Murphy said that the transfer of psychiatric beds to Kilkenny hadn't worked. It was too far away and there were significant capacity issues.