Overcrowding issue at Waterford psychiatric unit 'is reflected throughout the country'

Overcrowding issue at Waterford psychiatric unit 'is reflected throughout the country'

Overcrowding at the psychiatric unit of University Hospital Waterford is not a recent issue.

That is according to the chair of the Waterford Branch of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA).

Pictures highlighted by the Irish Examiner this week showed patients sleeping on floors and chairs at the hospital because of a lack of available beds.

Leish Caulfield says there is a capacity for 44 beds in the unit but patient numbers have been higher than this for some time.

"We have found an ongoing situation which has been constant and consistent over two years which we have had up to 54 patients within that 44 bed capacity," said Ms Caulfield.

"It is something that is absolutely intolerable.

"It is a situation which has been ongoing which is why the Psychiatric Nurses Association took the decision 22 months ago to enter into industrial action over the issue."

Ms Caulfield said that the unit has to provide a service that is up to standard and says that that standard is not being met.

"This issue of over-capacity and the over-reliance on our acute inpatient services has been highlighted for many, many months to senior management, to the HSE and to our governing body.

"This is not something that happened today or yesterday, this has been building."

The Irish Medical Organisation said that the crisis in the psychiatric unit in Waterford is common across the country.

Dr Martin Daly, a member of the IMO's GP committee, says this problem exists in many psychiatric units.

"Psychiatric services have always been the Cinderella of the medical services in the health service," said Dr Daly.

"It would appear that psychiatric patients and patients who need mental health services are at the lowest order of priority in the health service.

"What is happening in Waterford is something that is reflected throughout the country.

"There is a lack of capacity both for inpatient treatment and also in the community."

Dr Daly said that they are "sorely lacking" in the services that they can provide people.

People need to remember that we will all require mental health services and care at some point in our lives.

"It is a really poor reflection on the priorities of the health service that vulnerable people are forced to lie on floors in an inpatient unit in Waterford."

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