THE Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) is hosting a lunchtime protest at UHW this Friday given the Department Of Psychiatry’s unprecedented levels of overcrowding.
PNA Waterford Branch Chair Leish Caulfield said the protest, which will run from 1pm to 3pm, has been organised in reaction to feedback from their members and the support they’ve received from the public.
Speaking to the Waterford News & Star, Ms Caulfield, who works in the DOP, described the lack of dignity for the patients as “scandalous”.
As we went to print on Monday evening all 44 beds in the DOP were occupied, while one patient had to sleep on chairs in the DOP on Sunday. Ms Caulfield said staff are at the end of their tether.
Over the past two years the issue has been “constant” with up to 54 patients being treated in the 44 bed capacity unit. The previous weekend patient numbers didn’t drop below 50, while four staff were assaulted.
Ms Caulfied said the PNA believe that such overcrowding leads to assaults, adding that the DOP has to provide a certain standard which is not being met.
During the month of August, patient figures exceeded 44 on 22 days, with numbers for September in line with the escalating crisis. The HSE stated that there has been occasional overcrowding, but Ms Caulfield said it was clearly constant and consistent.
She described the recent Mental Health Commission as disappointing, adding that there was no mention of overcrowding in its findings. She argued that certain standards could not be met because of overcrowding.
Everyone working in the Department acknowledges that it is a very rewarding profession and all they want to do is provide high standards for their patients, she added. But to achieve this, then the huge deficit in staffing levels in the mental health service needs to be addressed.
As it stands up to 50 vacancies need to be filled across the sector. Staff are constantly redeployed to the DOP unit, which has a direct impact on community services.
Furthermore, staff were unable to begin work for up to half an hour one day as staff had to be redeployed to the DOP from other areas. Instead of starting at 7.30am they could not begin work until they had a safe level of staff a half an hour later.
Public representatives said they were shocked but not surprised at the revelations. Deputy David Cullinan criticised Health Minister Simon Harris and the HSE for the abject conditions. He stated: “The staff are not to blame here; they are operating under incredible stress and distress. Both the Minister and the HSE know that is about funding and resources. Yet, despite this, they refuse to do anything about it.” He said he will be putting down a motion to find answers.
Deputy Mary Butler said the images were “deeply distressing and completely unacceptable”. She added: “Patients at UHW deserve better, but conditions at some units in the hospital appear to be getting worse, not better. Minister Harris needs to concentrate more on fixing the problems in health rather than putting his energy into premature election campaigns.”