HSE ‘alienated’ doctors, says report

THE HSE “alienated” a group of consultant psychiatrists by publicly announcing the closure of an acute psychiatric unit without warning the consultants of the decision.

That’s according to an expert’s report into the decision last year to shut the 49-bed St Michael’s acute psychiatric unit in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

Consultant psychiatrists in south Tipperary have now accused the HSE of behaving in “a dictatorial manner” by deciding to close the unit and move inpatients to Kilkenny.

Former health minister Mary Harney commissioned psychiatrist Dr John Hillery last March to carry out a review of the closure decision-making process.

Dr Hillery said there was a history of “poor communication and poor governance in local mental health services in south Tipperary”, and this had “adversely affected” the delivery of services to patients for many years.

An announcement of the closure of St Michael’s without warning the consultants had “two damaging effects,” according to Dr Hillery — it focused the debate on one unit rather than services in the wider area, and “alienated” the consultants, causing a “public war of words”.

Consultants working in South Tipperary Mental Health Services yesterday welcomed the report which, they said, “fully endorses the very serious concerns we have been outlining for several years”.

Labour Party election candidate Senator Phil Prendergast said yesterday the report showed “dysfunctional management” by the HSE. “A question mark still hangs over the intention to effectively dump users of our acute mental health services into the community with nowhere to go,” she said.

Dr Hillery has recommended the appointment of a facilitator to work with a steering group set up to develop mental health services in south Tipperary and Carlow-Kilkenny.

In a statement last night, the HSE said it “strongly refutes” Senator Prendergast’s comments about “dumping service users with no where to go”.

It acknowledged that “service issues arose in the past because of poor communication and engagement with stakeholders, however, considerable progress has been made over the past 12 months in addressing this”.

Consultant staff, along with all other staff disciplines, service users and other stakeholders are “fully involved in progressing the new governance structures in South Tipperary/ Carlow/ Kilkenny mental health services and participate in both the steering group and subgroups established during 2010 to progress these new structures,” according to the HSE.

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