The campaign to retain acute inpatient psychiatry beds in Clonmel is continuing despite the assertion by Junior Minister Lynch that she intends to shut St Michaels Admission Unit in March of next year.   A public meeting has been announced by the Save Our Acute Hospital Services Committee in the Park Hotel in Clonmel for 8pm on next Tuesday 6th December when service users and carers/relatives are urged to come to show their support for this vital service which like so many others in Clonmel is under very serious threat at present.
The Nationalist spoke to Dr Alan Moore, consultant psychiatrist who took a decision to leave the HSE following his effective gagging by management this summer.  (He received a letter threatening him with disciplinary action if he continued to talk to the media).  Dr Moore remains an active member of the Save Our Acute Hospital Services Committee which is campaigning for the retention of a reduced number of acute psychiatry beds in South Tipperary instead of the HSE plan to send patients for admission to Kilkenny.
He told the Nationalist this week that the arguments in favour of keeping a small admission unit in Clonmel are as strong as ever despite HSE claims that the development of Day Hospitals and a Home Treatment team will replace the unit next year.
“No amount of HSE spin will alter the internationally accepted research which shows that even when you put in a Rolls Royce community service with home visits etc etc, you can only reduce the number of hospital admissions by a maximum of 40%.   This leaves 60% of the most acutely ill patients from South Tipperary who will be treated like second class citizens and packed off to Kilkenny where they will have few if any visits from relatives and where they will be looked after by unfamiliar staff .  Unfortunately the community service that is being planned falls far short of the ideal one in terms of staff resourcing and infrastructure and is but a pale shadow of that recommended by Vision for Change, the governments own policy document for mental health. Yet this is the context in which they intend to shut our beds, which once gone will be gone forever”.
“From the outset the HSE have been determined to shut down St Michaels and have refused to consider a range of alternatives which were put forward by clinical staff, and supported by local elected representatives.   These include the downsizing of St Michaels from 49 beds to 20 to 25 beds and the careful and scientific analysis of the use of these remaining beds while the community service is properly resourced. Repeated requests for an option appraisal have been refused by HSE senior management without explanation and it has been crystal clear that closure of the Unit was the only show in town from that black day in January in 2010 when Seamus Moore made his shock announcement on local radio,” Dr Moore said. All the subsequent meetings and committees have been window-dressing unfortunately” he claimed.
“The HSE’s behaviour throughout our campaign has been extremely disappointing,” he said. “For me, the last straw was the gagging letter which was to me a clear indication that the HSE is not interested in the truth, and are prepared to get their own way at any cost. There is a climate of fear amongst staff: people are afraid to speak out for fear of the consequences” he went on.
However Dr Moore remains optimistic of a happy outcome in the campaign “The people who really matter have not yet spoken—the users and carers.  They know of the absolute need for a local service and they have not been asked for their views—deliberately, I believe”.
“The Save our Acute Services have been asking Minister Lynch for many weeks for a meeting with service users and families to forward their views but no date has been granted unfortunately.   The pressure for this meeting will intensify in the weeks ahead, I believe”
“In the meantime the Committee is hopeful that the meeting in the Park Hotel will see a huge turnout and that this in turn will send a message to the decision makers before it is too late.”