A court case over the future of mental health services at Bantry Hospital could have implications for mental health services across Ireland, the Minister responsible has said.
Following a finding by the Mental Health Commission, the HSE has been ordered to reduce the beds in Bantry Hospital’s Mental Health Unit from 18 to 11 after the Commission identified problems around the building, such as: B. Occupancy and Other Security Concerns. The issue was raised in Seanad on Wednesday by Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard.
Secretary of State for Mental Health, Mary Butler, told Seanad that the HSE had informed her of its intention to appeal the Mental Health Commission’s decision. She said that since this is now a matter before the district court, “it would not be appropriate” for her to discuss the details of the case.
“As I understand it, the only option for the HSE was to appeal the decision of the Mental Health Commission to the District Court. The HSE claims it cannot afford to reduce the number of beds, noting that there are no details in Regulation 22. The HSE believes the imposition of the condition will have wider implications for many other approved centers in that particular CHO area and within the CHO areas at national level.
“The last thing I want to see is a court case, but at the same time I have to be very aware that the loss of seven beds in this particular hospital would have an adverse impact on residents in the area and could also take a hit – with effect elsewhere. As Minister of State, I have to ensure that we have the capacity for these people who suffer from mental illness and ongoing mental health problems. They need government support.”
Mr Lombard said the ruling “could be the catalyst for a full capacity shift across the sector and across the country”. “It’s a huge issue for us,” he says.
“It is now a real concern that there could be a reduction in acute care across the country as a result of the decision by the Mental Health Commission. In relation to the issue of going to court, I find it bizarre that two agencies of the state are still hoping that communication between the HSE and the Commission can continue so that they don’t actually have to go to court , to solve the problem.”
Social Democrats’ TD for the constituency, Holly Cairns, told the Dáil last week that this was “an absolutely vital service for West Cork”.
“Many of the people who contact me have shared stories about this service that has literally saved their own lives or the lives of their loved ones.”