Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health, Mark Ward TD, has asked the Government to provide surge capacity within private mental health hospitals to deal with the increased demand on mental health services during the pandemic.
Teachta Ward said that under this Government we have gone from a mental health crisis, to a mental health emergency.
The Dublin Mid-West TD has also asked the Minister to consider using private mental health outreach services to treat patients within their community.
Teachta Ward said:
“The Government and the HSE have entered into ‘surge capacity’ deal with private hospitals.
“The deal between the HSE and other private hospitals will allow the health service to use up to 30% of the private hospitals’ capacity, depending on the incidence rate of Covid-19.
“I am not surprised that the Government have failed to deliver the same deal when it comes to mental health provision.
“Late last year the Government announced its winter plan for health. At no point did this plan refer to mental health, despite the stakeholders warning that we were amid a mental health tsunami.
“I have written to Minister Mary Butler and asked if there was any consideration to provide private mental health care to public patients, given the unprecedented amount of people presenting with mental health issues arising from this pandemic.
“This would take pressure off our public hospitals who are dealing with the Covid emergency, in addition to providing essential care for people who are suffering with their mental health.
“The fact is the people suffering from mental health problems are still arriving to A&E departments as they have no other service available to them. A&E is not right environment for anyone suffering a mental health episode.
“We need to have 24/7 access to emergency mental health care.
“I also ask the Minister to consider providing a mental health homecare package to public patients and to use private hospital to provide this, similar to the ‘Homecare Package’ provided to patients of St Patrick’s University Hospital.
“This service employs multidisciplinary teams that have adapted to provide mental health care within the Community, whilst adhering to the public health guidelines.
“Ireland went from having one the highest rates of mental health beds in the world in the 1980s, to the lowest now.
“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments have failed to resource community based mental health services to meet rising demands.
“They have failed spectacularly. Funding for mental health as a percentage of the overall health budget has fallen from 16% during the 1980s to 7% in 2020, and further to 6% in 2021. During a national emergency it is a scandal that the percentage allocated for mental health fell.
“Sláintecare recommends 10% of the health budget should go to mental health services, while international best practice recommends up to 16%.
“I am calling on the Government to roll out a comprehensive public mental health service, and if needed to, use the same ‘surge capacity’ methods as currently being used for other areas of non-Covid care.
“We have gone from a mental health crisis to a mental health emergency under this Government.”