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Whistleblower case raises questions on mental healthcare – Ó Caoláin

24 January, 2012 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD raised the Louise Bayliss “whistleblower” case in the Dáil today. He said it raised serious questions:
“I welcome the reinstatement of Louise Bayliss by the Irish Advocacy Network. It is a good outcome. However, it does not remove the necessity for us to raise the issues surrounding her case.
“This is a very serious matter. Before the Dáil Christmas recess, Louise Bayliss, blew the whistle on unacceptable conditions for a group of women in St Brendan’s Hospital, Grangegorman.
“Louise Bayliss highlighted in the broadcast media the disruption experienced by these mental health patients as a result of the severe staff shortage. They were dispersed and, in some cases, removed to what had been locked wards. This naturally caused distress and raised the question as to whether voluntary patients were being treated as involuntary patients, a very fundamental matter concerning the rights of all patients.
“After Louis Bayliss blew the whistle on this situation it was raised in the Dáil by a number of deputies, myself included. The minister subsequently visited St Brendan’s to see what were described as the temporary arrangements brought about by the staff shortages. That was on 15 December.
“The issue that must be addressed is why it took a patient advocate to go on national broadcast media to highlight this situation and to seek a remedy? The reality is that there would likely have been no ministerial intervention and no visit to St Brendan’s had Louise Bayliss not blown the whistle. Where are the safeguards for patients falling short and where are the reporting mechanisms in the system breaking down?
“This is also in the context of narrowly averted industrial action by members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association in another Dublin hospital, St Ita’s. Again the issue is the pressure on reduced staff and the reduction in bed numbers.
• Does the minister know how many people in the mental health services will be taking the early retirement option before the end of February?
• Is there a contingency plan for this?
• Is the minister concerned at the prospect of an even more severe staff shortage following those retirements and before new staff can be recruited?”

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