Aspects of Galway’s new psychiatric unit – officially launched by a Government minister to much fanfare this week – have been branded “inadequate” and “inappropriate”, in an official report published last week.
The Mental Health Commission has highlighted failings at the new Adult Acute Mental Health Unit at University Hospital Galway, following an official complaint from a chairperson of a Mental Health Tribunal held at the facility.
An inspector with the Mental Health Commission carried out an inspection of the unit and found that the Mental Health Tribunal room there “was not adequately sized, ventilated and soundproofed and that the facilities did not respect the dignity of the patient during the Mental Health Tribunal”.
The new unit was built last year, at a cost of €20 million, after the old building was decommissioned because it was ‘not fit for purpose’.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) moved to address a number of issues at the new facility, after a series of complaints from service users and their advocates, were highlighted in this newspaper.
Patients said they felt isolated, demeaned and dehumanised in the new unit. Lack of sleep due to the noisiness of the new inpatient facility, and a reduction in human contact with staff since it opened last Autumn were chief among the concerns. A ‘draconian’ no-smoking policy where inpatients and visitors are ‘stopped and searched’ for tobacco, and where those caught smoking outside the unit were ‘punished’, was also causing distress.
Last February, the HSE acknowledged there were infrastructural problems with the new facility, and said it was working to address lighting and noise issues at the new unit. It defended its ‘no smoking’ policy.
This latest report from the Mental Health Commission into the failings of the new facility, was published the day after Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, officially ‘cut the ribbon’ on the new unit last Monday.
On the eve of his visit, the Galway City Tribune contacted some of the inpatients who had complained about the facility last year. “Unfortunately, none of the issues we raised about the unit have been addressed as of yet,” said one service user who responded.
The centre has 50 beds, and residents are referred there by 12 consultant-led teams, including two psychiatry of later life teams, a mental health intellectual disability team, and a rehabilitation and recovery team.
In July of this year, the Mental Health Commission carried out an inspection of the facility, after receiving complaints about the provision of appropriate private facilities and adequate resources to support the Mental Health Tribunal process.
“This room where mental health tribunals were held was partitioned to provide a tribunal room and a training/multi-purpose room. It was not soundproofed and proceedings could be heard in the training room next door. The room was small, approximately five metres long and 3.5 metres wide. A narrow table with six chairs was in the centre of the room. The width of the table did not allow adequate space for people sitting opposite each other being insufficient to accommodate mental health tribunal members, the patient, his/her advocate, any attending nurses and the consultant psychiatrist. There were no windows; there was a Velux style window in the ceiling, which could be opened remotely. The room was stuffy and hot at the time of the inspection. The room infringed the right of the patient to be treated with respect and dignity during the tribunal process,” the inspector found.
A previous inspection of the tribunal room in the old ‘not fit for purpose’ building, found that it was bright and spacious, with natural light coming through a number of windows along one wall, and it was well ventilated. This room was now being used for training and meetings and all tribunal hearings are now held in the smaller room, according to staff.
The Mental Health Commission issued an Immediate Action Notice to address these concerns and said in a statement this week that it was “engaging with the approved centre to ensure the service is meeting the needs of patients attending a Mental Health Tribunal”.
Gardaí issue warning on ‘movie money’
Gardaí have warned of an increase in ‘novelty’ euro notes – which are almost identical to real currency – in circulation.
The notes are usually marked ‘movie money’ or ‘prop money’, but this can often go unnoticed by the person handling it. They do not have any security features.
Revenue Officers have seized notes in varying denominations representing a value of €430,895 in recent mail centre detections.
Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said: “People need to be aware that such notes exist and at busy times, especially late at night, they need to exercise a little care and attention.
“These notes are easily identifiable if precautionary checks are made. Also people who try to tender such notes as real face prosecution, a possible prison sentence and a conviction, which is for life. Such convictions have serious ramifications if one wanted to travel, to work in certain sectors and it can affect their credit rating”.
“We advise businesses and members of the public who deal in cash to be aware that such notes are in circulation and take appropriate precautionary measures. Business owners should ensure staff members handling cash are alerted to watch out for these fraudulent notes.
“The use of fraudulent currency when trying to purchase goods or services is an offence under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 and carries a potential prison sentence of 10 years.
“These fraudulent notes should not be accepted as legal tender and any incidents of persons trying to pay with “prop money” should be reported to Gardaí immediately,” said Det Supt Cryan.
Fire at site of former Corrib Great Southern Hotel
Emergency services are at the scene of a large fire at the site of the former Corrib Great Southern Hotel which broke out in the early hours of this morning.
Four units of the Galway Fire and Rescue Service were called to the former hotel near GMIT at 5.45am. A unit from Athenry is also in attendance at the scene.
Fire fighters are maintaining a presence at the derelict hotel, which has been the scene of a number of arson attacks over the past number of years.
Three refused bail on violent disorder charges
Three men who were arrested this morning as part of a Garda investigation into violent disorder at a funeral in Mervue last year, have been denied bail by a District Court Judge.
Denis Hannafin, Curry; Robbie Hannafin, Corboy, Edgeworthstown and Tommy Hannafin, Dublin Road – all in Longford – were charged with violent disorder in connection with an incident which occurred outside Holy Family funeral home on in January 13 last year.
Detective Garda Ronan Leonard told the court this morning that CCTV footage showed a number of members of the Hannafin family outside the funeral home on January 13, 2019, at approximately 3.15pm, when a number of members of the McGinley family made their way towards them.
An altercation ensued, which resulted in one member of the McGinley family suffering a gunshot wound, while another received a stab wound to the back. A third man suffered acid wounds.
Gardaí explained that there is a feud going on between the two families, which began when juvenile members of the families got into a fight at a pool hall.
Detective Leonard voiced concerns that if the three accused were granted bail, they would commit further offences and intimidate members of the McGinley family.
Judge Seamus Hughes had remanded the three accused in custody to Harristown District Court next Friday, February 28.