Psych nurses to strike over staff shortages

STAFF shortages, bordering on what a nurse’s union described as “dangerous”, are affecting day services at a hospital for intellectually disabled people.

The day services for resident patients on the campus of St Ita’s psychiatric hospital in north Dublin have all but ceased, it has been claimed.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) warned it is set to proceed, this week, with “some form of industrial action” as an agreement made with the HSE concerning the hospital had not been honoured.

The campus houses mental health patients as well as 150 intellectually disabled patients. Last year, after years of campaigning, temporary staff were allocated to assist at a development, Knockamann, which houses intellectually disabled residents. They had been moved out of the old hospital building.

However, permanent contracts were not offered to the new staff and many left due to the instability of the situation, the PNA claimed.

“We are 20 staff short in the ID [intellectually disabled] service alone,” a union spokesperson said.

“The HSE is fully aware of that. We had to close down school and day services at the new Knockamann centre because staff cannot cope.”

The spokesman said that, due to the challenging behaviour patients display, there were a high number of staff off sick at the moment.

“In one house, four staff out of five are currently out sick because of this, so staff have had to be re-deployed from other areas.”

Last year, the hospital was ordered by the Mental Health Commission to cease all acute admissions due to the condition of the building. The deadline is August 31 but the HSE has not announced where patients will be admitted instead.

“We are trying to save the health services for this region. This is Minister Reilly’s constituency yet it seems nothing is being done. It is very unfair for the people who are in these services because they are not getting the care they should be. We cannot even get agency staff at the moment. Patient care is being compromised.”

A spokesperson for the Mental Health Commission said it expects the HSE to meet the condition to permanently close the acute admission units by August 31.

“That deadline is now approaching and… we fully expect that it will be met.

“It is important to recall why these conditions were imposed in the first place. For several years the reports of the Inspector of Mental Health Services have said that St Ita’s Hospital is unfit for purpose. The 2009 report described St Ita’s as “dilapidated, desolate and depressing”.

“It is more than two years since that report was published and over a year since the commission imposed conditions on St Ita’s.

“The HSE has been given more than adequate time to put in place the necessary changes needed to provide a satisfactory service. The commission has been very flexible and last February extended to the HSE an extra six months to fulfil the conditions.

“Our priorities are the patients, and improving the standards and conditions in mental health services so that people receive the best care and treatment in the most appropriate settings.”



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