Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on Mental Health Colm Keaveney has appealed to the Government to reopen St Brigid’s in Ballinasloe at least on a temporary basis as the situation at UHG’s psychiatric unit remains ‘unsafe’.

Raising the matter in the Dáil today, Deputy Keaveney told the Government that the crisis in Galway’s mental health services is escalating out of control and UHG is simply unable to cope with the surge in demand for its psychiatric services.

“The psychiatric unit at UHG has been described as a ‘war-zone’. The Health and Safety Authority was called in to carry out an emergency inspection last week, staff levels are dangerously low, patients have gone missing resulting in a tragic death last week, there have been a number of allegations of staff assaults and morale is at an all-time low,” explained Deputy Keaveney.

“Meanwhile, we have the €3.2 million, state-of-the-art, brand new, ligature free psychiatric unit lying idle in Ballinasloe. It makes absolutely no sense. The Government is in complete denial of what’s going on here despite receiving several warnings from local psychiatric professionals and from my own party. UHG is simply unable to cope and we now have an escalating crisis in Galway’s mental health services.

“This is as a direct result of the closure of St Brigid’s and the failure to fill frontline mental health posts in the community. Without adequate mental health services across Co Galway, there is nowhere for psychiatric patients to go but UHG. The unit there is simply not built to treat all of these patients and provide the kind of specialised care that they need.

“The very least the Government could do is re-open St Brigid’s on a temporary basis to take some of the pressure off UHG and ensure that very sick patients who need specialised psychiatric care treated in the appropriate setting. St Brigid’s has all the facilities and equipment ready to go. This could be done immediately while the situation at UHG is brought under control and the HSE fills the 40% of community mental health posts that were supposed to be filled last year.

“We need immediate action from the Government before there are any more tragic incidents in Galway. The failure of the Minister for Health James Reilly and Minister of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch to act on previous warnings over the past few months has left a gaping hole in our mental health services in Galway. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”