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'Unprecedented demand' for mental health services in the West

There is now “unprecedented demand” for mental health services in the West, the HSE has conceded.

John Fitzmaurice, newly appointed Chief Officer of Community Healthcare West, said demand for mental health care was strong – not only in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon but right across Ireland.

He said HSE West had lodged a submission for funding for a new mental health community crisis team, but it hasn’t yet been approved.

Mr Fitzmaurice said it was hoped that it would be approved “in the near future”.

He confirmed to Galway City Councillor John Connolly (FF) that there was a need to increase ‘community capacity’ to deal with the rise in mental health presentations.

Cllr Connolly raised the issue of mental health at the latest Regional Health Forum.

He insisted there needed to be more capacity at the Adult Acute Mental Health Unit at University Hospital Galway (pictured), which has 50 beds.

Official stats given to Cllr Connolly at the meeting showed the AAMHU operated at 97% capacity last year.

Cllr Connolly said that 27 overcapacity incidents of mental health units were recorded in Ireland last year, and one third of them were in UHG. It was clear there was a capacity problem that needed to be addressed, he said.

On nine occasions, the HSE confirmed, there were overcapacity incidents at the AAMHU at UHG. This included three incidents in October and August last year, as well as two incidents in April and one in December.

Mr Fitzmaurice said in all nine instances alternative accommodation was provided.

He did not give specifics, but listed the alternatives that are generally available, which included admission to neighbour hospitals, emergency accommodation, and the Emergency Department “as a last resort”.

Cllr Connolly said it was clear from the figures that the capacity of the AAMHU was operating at capacity higher than 97% during some weeks last year.

The total beds occupied last year was 17,724 and there were 18,250 total bed nights available over twelve months.

July and August with 1,551 and 1,568 bed nights respectively were the busiest months.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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