Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal Charlie McConalogue has expressed concern about the provision of mental health services in Donegal after it emerged that GPs have been forced to suspend referrals to local addiction services as a result of staff shortages.
Donegal Mental Health Service has had to take the drastic action following the retirement of an addiction counsellor in South West Donegal and part of the Finn valley. GPs received a letter at the end of March informing them that referrals had been suspended.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “This latest retirement brings to three, the number of vacant addiction services positions in Donegal and I am extremely concerned that this post will lie vacant for months without ever being filled, resulting in diminished mental health services across the county. We already have a case where an addition counsellor post in Inishowen, which arose last year, is only being filled on a temporary basis, while a community detox position still hasn’t been filled more than a year later.
“The absence of a community detox specialist in the county is a disgrace. People who would have been previously referred to Letterkenny General Hospital or to a specialist nurse by their GP will now have no face-to-face treatment or follow-up services. They are now being left to struggle at home without anyone advocating for them in person or ensuring that they are receiving the help they so desperately need.
“I am aware that the National Recruitment Service has launched a recruitment campaign to fill these posts however the closing date was last month and there is usually at least an 18 week administration period before any appointment is made.
“This is a completely unacceptable situation. There should be no gaps in service for patients who need this important service. The HSE should ensure that all impending retirements are advertised in advance so that a replacement is available immediately to fill vacant posts rather than the current situation where patients in Donegal are being left without a service.
“It is ironic that these significant gaps are occurring at a time when the Government claims that it’s investing an additional €35 in Mental Health Services as part of Budget 2015 and maintains that “community mental health teams are central to this Government’s vision for mental health in the future. We want people to be cared for and to receive the support they need in their own community”.
“This commitment is ringing hollow in Co Donegal where important vacancies have been left unfilled for months on end. I am now calling on Minister Kathleen Lynch to step in and ensure that these posts are filled as a matter of urgency and if required that these posts are allowed to be advertised locally if the National Recruitment Service is unable to make permanent appointments”.