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”.
Huge reward for ‘dognap’ – as canine companion dies of broken heart
Galway City Tribune – Galway’s most famous dog, Biggy the Irish Wolfhound, has “died of a broken heart” after his Jack Russell best mate was the victim of a suspected ‘dognap’ – which led to the owner putting up a €20,000 reward.
Following a social media campaign which went viral, Biggy was famously reunited with his family 11 days after he went missing in 2013. He was discovered on the motorway outside Athenry.
Nine years later, James Leopold Mechels has erected hundreds of posters all over the city and suburbs in a desperate bid to find the ageing Jack Russell he calls ‘Little One’.
The Belgian native recently increased a reward for the return of his beloved pooch from €1,000 to €20,000. But so far, no credible sightings have been made.
“He’s been missing for 3,288 hours – 137 days, I’m so exhausted, so upset, so anxious. I’ve stopped working to focus all of my effort into finding him. I’ve cycled all over the city, I’ve driven to the horse fair in Ballinasloe,” James told the Galway City Tribune this week.
This is a preview only. To read more of James’ story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.
■ Anybody with information is asked to call 087 0650678 or Ark Vets on 091 584185.
Row deepens over Tiny Traders market
Galway City Tribune – The row between the Tiny Traders Village and Galway Arts Centre – the operators of Nuns’ Island Theatre – deepened this week as the Arts Centre announced its intentions to open its own market on the site.
Manager of the Tiny Traders Village, Paul David Murphy, has claimed this was proof that it was always Galway Arts Centre, and its Managing Director, Páraic Breathnach’s, intention to “force” them out, adding that he had felt under constant threat of being shut down.
“It did come as a bit of a shock, but it was something I was expecting,” said Mr Murphy of a post on social media announcing that a new market would open.
“It’s now obvious that they were trying to get rid of us and I can’t believe how transparent they’ve been. Up until this point, there had been a little degree of mystery as to why this happened. It’s sad because the Tiny Traders Village was working really well.”
This comes following a decision by the Tiny Traders to cease trading two weeks ago, citing changes that Galway Arts Centre had requested that Mr Murphy said would have made his business “unviable”.
Speaking to the Galway City Tribune this week, Páraic Breathnach confirmed that they had requested changes – involving layout alterations and clearance – but this had been done due to health and safety concerns.
“There were changes requested to comply with fire regulations, safety and health. They were in relation to the blocking of pathways, the blocking of fire exits, clearance between stalls and the affixing of canopies to a listed building,” said Mr Breathnach.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.
Call for Gardaí to confiscate vehicles involved in fly-tipping
Galway City Tribune – confiscation of vehicles – and driver disqualification – have been sought by a Galway TD and a local councillor for those involved in illegal dumping.
According to Independent TD, Noel Grealish and Independent councillor, Noel Larkin, illegal dumping on the east side of Galway City has now reached ‘an all-time high’.
Last week, Deputy Grealish and Cllr Larkin, met with Climate Action and Environment Minister, Richard Bruton, to seek new measures cracking down on those involved in illegal dumping.
“I asked Minister Bruton to introduce legislation that would result in driver disqualification for persons convicted of illegal dumping while using a vehicle. I am also seeking for the introduction of legislation that will give judges the power to order the confiscation of vehicles used for illegal dumping,” said Deputy Grealish.
The Gardaí and Galway City and Council Councils have now been asked to establish an ‘all-county initiative’ to tackle the problem.
This year, Galway City Council was allocated just €50,000 from a €7.4m Government fund to tackle illegal dumping – the lowest figure of any local authority in the country.
This is a preview only. For extensive coverage of the illegal dumping issue, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.