SIPTU claimed that already this week, a prisoner with mental health problems could only be admitted to the hospital if another patient was returned to the prison service.
The union is now seeking an urgent meeting with junior minister John Moloney over the ongoing crisis caused by the recruitment ban.
Several months ago, the hospital informed HSE management that it had 25 nursing vacancies through staff leaving or retiring, but because of an embargo on all public service recruitment, they could not be replaced. Since February, it wrote on several occasions to HSE assistant national director Hugh Kane telling him of the emerging crisis, but to no avail.
On May 28, senior management at the hospital concluded that given its present level of activity, the hospital could not operate with that level of vacancies. It wrote to Mr Kane telling him that from June 15, it would close for admissions and will ultimately reduce bed capacity by 16 beds.
The HSE was asked to seek an exemption from the ban to get staffing numbers up to the required level but it was unable to secure the derogation.
SIPTU says the department has confirmed that the hospital is closed to new admissions and patients could only be admitted if spaces were vacated.
“On Wednesday a patient had to be returned to the prison service to make way for another patient from the prison service who was in even more urgent need of treatment,” said union national nursing official Louise O’Reilly. “Our members in the CMH are working huge levels of overtime to plug the gaps in the service and this cannot continue.
“Neither patients nor staff should have to face the additional handicap of a revolving door policy to mask the fact that there are inadequate resources available to the only forensic facility of its type in the state. Our members are now very concerned that the CMH is effectively closing its doors and at the profound implications this will have across the mental health services.”
A spokesperson for the HSE said as the hospital was full, the issue of admissions does not arise.
“The proposal to deal with the staffing problem has been accepted at HSE management team level and the situation will hopefully be resolved shortly.”