22 May 2022

Overcrowding at University Hospital Waterford psychiatry unit 'could see it shut down'

Overcrowding at University Hospital Waterford psychiatry unit 'could see it shut down'

David Cullinane TD, Cllr Conor D. McGuinness and Metropolitan Mayor Cllr Breda Brennan at the PNA rally outside UHW

A lack of resources for community mental health services is to blame for the overcrowding in the Department of Psychiatry at University Hospital Waterford (UHW), according to a local councillor. 

Sinn Féin councillor Conor D. McGuinness made the comments following a meeting with representatives of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and in the wake of growing controversy about patient and staff safety at the unit. 

“Recent photographs of patients bedding down on floors in the Department of Psychiatry in UHW are shocking but sadly come as no surprise to those who have first hand experience of the unit or indeed those who have been campaigning for improvements,” Cllr McGuinness said. 

“Chronic overcrowding in this unit has become the norm and is putting both patients and staff at risk. It impacts on patient outcomes and denies both service users and workers the dignity and security that they are entitled to. It calls the future of the unit into question as the ongoing issue with overcrowding could see it shut down.”

Cllr McGuinness met with PNA representatives and attended the rally last Friday. “It’s clear to them that the overcrowding issue is not simply about capacity in the unit itself, but stems from the failure by successive governments to adequately resource community mental health supports and services. A lack of community support and early intervention for people with mental health problems is resulting in increased admission to the unit. 

“I raised this very issue last month at the Regional Health Forum and senior HSE managers acknowledge that community mental health services in the South East are under resourced. The solution to this problem is not simply extra beds. A new approach is required where healthcare is a Government priority, where the early intervention and community services are key, and where the South East is no longer overlooked and ignored. We deserve much better,” he added.

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