Overcrowding in mental health services in Waterford is putting staff and patients under ‘intolerable pressure’, the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) has warned.
PNA industrial relations officer, Michael Hayes, said overcrowding had reached “unprecedented levels” despite repeated warnings from the association.
“This situation has been building for some months and is now causing intolerable distress to already vulnerable patients and staff alike,” said Mr Hayes.
“We have had four assaults on staff over the weekend alone and this is on top of a series of assaults in recent months.”
In some cases, patients were sleeping on chairs because of overcrowding.
The 44-bed acute psychiatry unit at University Hospital Waterford had an additional ten patients admitted to the ward.
The ten beds assigned to Waterford Mental Health Services at the private St Patrick’s Mental Health Services in Dublin are now full.
Three Waterford patients had to be transferred to the department of psychiatry in St Luke’s, Kilkenny, that is now fully occupied.
It emerged that eight children were admitted to the unit over the past year even though not all staff had been trained in the Children First policy and no programme of activities was available. The HSE has been repeatedly told by the Mental Health Commission that the unit is unsuitable for children.
Inspector of mental health services, Dr Susan Finnerty, said children should only be admitted to an adult service “in exceptional circumstances.”
Mr Hayes said they now had a service that was increasingly chaotic resulting in serious repercussions for service users, staff, and standards of care.
“This situation cannot be allowed to continue and the under-resourcing and understaffing of the Waterford mental health services must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Responding, the HSE acknowledged there can be “overcapacity” issues at times in the unit but “in this instance” additional risk management controls including staffing and alternative external placements were applied.