I recently attended a protest outside the department of psychiatry, St. Luke's General Hospital, Kilkenny, with members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association. They were protesting about the quality of care that they are able to give to patients in that facility. I have visited patients at this facility for a long time but it has not been updated. It requires significant capital expenditure and investment in staff.
Staff are put to the pin of their collar. It is unfair to staff and to patients that the current situation would be allowed to continue. Yesterday, there were 51 patients in a 44-bed unit. Patients were being admitted to sit on chairs on which they were asked to stay and sleep while waiting for a psychiatric service, and that is not good enough. The staff attended that protest in their own time. They did not vacate the wards. They came in from their lunch breaks to highlight what they see as being an unfair system and very poor care for the patient.
Some of those there for the long term are in an inappropriate setting. They are waiting for placement elsewhere. People cannot get counselling services. Some patients are being told they will have to wait for three to six months before they are seen. If one is in a community setting outside the hospital, the same waiting list prevails. How can one tell someone who is in a crisis regarding mental health that he or she will have to wait for three to six months? There are volunteer organisations on the ground, such as Taxi Watch founded by Derek Devoy. It monitors those who may be on the verge of suicide and brings them to the attention of relevant services. What can the services do when they are underfunded, understaffed and under pressure in the department of psychiatry? I am not saying that for political purposes. Those central to delivering the care are saying it. The HSE is referring patients who are looking for counselling services to Teac Tom, a voluntary organisation in Kilkenny city. It provides immediate, on-the-spot counselling services but the HSE refuses to pay for the service because it believes it is referring the individual to a service that is run on a voluntary basis. How can that be? How can the Minister of State allow that to continue? I stood on that picket line with a friend of mine, a councillor, Joe Malone, who is associated with the care of those who need care for their mental health and well-being.
What will the Minister of State do to provide capital expenditure and the needed staffing requirements? What plans are there to extend the department of psychiatry? When will an extension or refurbishment of that centre be provided for? This has gone on for a long time and someone has to cry stop before we have another death by suicide. It is that critical. I invite the Minister of State to visit the service, to visit Teac Tom and to talk to Derek Devoy in the other service, and to see first-hand what is going on in the department of psychiatry. We also need investment in the management of that service. It is deplorable that the managers of a service cannot see the issues confronting their staff and that the management is not planning ahead for the numbers attending the service and the staffing levels required. I draw the Minister of State's attention to the fact that the same circumstances prevail with the Waterford services.