Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has raised with Taoiseach the issue ofmental health clinicians withdrawing their confidence in HSE management of the service following a number of deaths by suicide in the Carlow-Kilkenny/South Tipperary area.
Speaking in the Dáil today Mr Adams questioned the Taoiseach on revelations aired by RTÉ's 'This Week' programme, that the doctors, in a letter to Minister of State with Responsibility for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch, had cited nine suicides of service users between August 2011 and January 2013.
Gerry Adams said:
“Taoiseach, this is a dramatic, disturbing and very serious development. These senior doctors raised concerns with the HSE about management of the service in November 2012 and on subsequent occasions.
“In their letter to Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, the doctors repeatedly questioned the safety of governance in the service, saying they felt "devalued" and "ignored" in attempting to raise concerns with the HSE.
“They called on the Minister to intervene with the HSE to ensure proper investigation of incidents and that review findings would be properly communicated and appropriate reforms implemented.
“In June 2013, the HSE Local Area Manager wrote to the consultants to say their concerns had been addressed, but the consultants say they were never informed of the outcome of reviews of serious incidents.”
The Sinn Fein Leader asked if the Taoiseach was concerned about the number of deaths by suicide of mental health service users in the Carlow-Kilkenny/South Tipperary area and if he had discussed this with the Minister for Health Dr Reilly or Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health. He also asked the Taoiseach, what the Government intended to do about it.
Mr Adams said claims that the deaths were in line with CSO figures for the previous decade must be viewed against the concerns of others who had pointed out that the figures don’t reflect suicides in hospitals and who found this extraordinary.
Mr Adams said:
“The concerns of psychiatrists are clearly being ignored. A report on the area’s services was only commissioned in December - six months after the consultants wrote to the Minister.
The Sinn Féin Leader said the issue was the latest in a series of disturbing revelations concerning mental health services:
“Lack of out-of-hours services contributed to over 80 admissions of children to adult in-patient psychiatric units last year. The CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance says this represents a clear breach of children’s rights.”
Mr Adams also pointed to a report in Irish Times which said hundreds of psychiatric patients, moved out of mental hospitals in recent decades, are living in entirely unsuitable conditions, with limited access to health or care professionals.
He asked if the Taoiseach was concerned that there is a crisis in mental health provision in the State and that this is costing lives, adding that this crisis is a symptom of a health service crumbling under the weight of austerity and cuts.