Call to axe bed closure plan after nurse attack

The Psychiatric Nurses’ Association has called on the HSE to reverse a raft of proposed bed closures at mental health units in Cork after one of its members was attacked while on duty.

The female nurse, who is in her mid 20s, was attacked, knocked to the ground, and kicked several times in the head and face by a female patient in St Michael’s Mental Health Unit based at the Mercy University Hospital in Cork at around 11pm on Sunday.

It took five staff members to restrain the patient, who is in her 40s.

PNA spokesman Seamus Murphy said it was the sixth violent physical attack on staff of that unit alone since Jan 5. The injured nurse was treated in the hospital’s emergency department for severe bruising and later discharged.

Mr Murphy said the nurse is in a lot of pain and has been extremely traumatised by the attack.

Gardaí confirmed they are investigating the incident.

The HSE said the welfare of staff is of “paramount importance” and the appropriate supports have been put in place for the staff members.

“The incident has been reported to the Occupational Health Department and the HSE’s Employee Assistant Programme is also in place to support staff and their colleagues,” said a spokesman. “This was an isolated incident and the HSE is confident that services are provided safely and are monitored at all times to ensure the welfare and safety of staff.

“The HSE also informs, and co-operates fully with, the relevant authorities around such incidents including the Mental Health Commission.”

But Mr Murphy said the PNA is extremely concerned that its members could face similar attacks following a briefing by the HSE South yesterday on a raft of bed closures at mental health facilities in Cork.

“The bed closures will put a lot more strain on a system already creaking at the seams,” he said.

He said the HSE has plans to close 26 acute beds in St Stephen’s Hospital in Glanmire — nine beds will be closed by next February, with the rest phased out in the following four months.

“This will effectively end the acute service provision at St Stephen’s,” he said.

And he said the HSE told the PNA that within six months they plan to close 17 of the 35 beds at the Carrig Mór mental health unit, Shanakiel which caters for challenging patients prone to violent behaviour.

“We need the proper facilities to deal with incidents like that faced by one of our members on Sunday — to protect staff and to protect the other clients in these units,” he said.

He called on the HSE to reverse the bed closure plans, to immediately lift the recruitment embargo and for the roll out of a staff training programme on how to manage aggression and violence in the workplace.

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