Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Questions (13)

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Health)

Deputy Eugene Murphy has lucky number 13.

Eugene Murphy

Question:

13. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Health if a number of senior staff members in Roscommon community mental health services have been transferred to County Galway; the reason for these positions being vacated; his plans for the replacement of these positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20493/19]

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I want to ask the Minister about the community mental health services in County Roscommon. Specifically, I want to ask if some staff have transferred to County Galway, why those positions have been vacated and whether there are plans for the replacement of those positions. I look for ward to the Minister's reply.

I thank Deputy Eugene Murphy for this important question on Roscommon community mental health services, the reason for their transfer to County Galway and plans for the replacement of these positions.

Community healthcare west has confirmed to me that three senior clinicians in the Roscommon area are in the process of leaving their roles. They are leaving to pursue career opportunities elsewhere in the mental health service of community healthcare west. The three clinicians, a consultant psychiatrist, an area director of nursing and a senior nurse, worked in the adult mental health services and are expected to move to their new posts by the beginning of June 2019. There is currently a process in place to offer the consultant post to candidates on a national panel established for the filling of consultant psychiatrist posts. In the interim, a locum consultant psychiatrist will be engaged. A community nurse manager in the area will take on the role as acting director of nursing until a permanent replacement can be recruited. Nursing management in Roscommon is currently in the process of filling the acting director of nursing and senior nurse positions on a permanent basis.

The Deputy's question was asking me whether the staff were moving from Roscommon to Galway and not being replaced. I am pleased to inform Deputy Eugene Murphy that is not the case. The case is that for individual personal and career reasons, staff have decided to take up job opportunities elsewhere, as is their right, and we wish them well. It is the HSE's active intention to fill those posts, and we will fill the consultant post on an interim basis with a locum consultant. There will be a process in place to fill the post permanently, and we will see the permanent filling of the acting director of nursing and senior nurse positions. Let me assure the Deputy of the HSE's and my own commitment to recruiting these staff. My Department has requested regular updates as part of this process, and I would be happy to share them with Deputy Eugene Murphy and keep in touch with him in this regard.

I thank the Minister for his reply and for the reassurances given in relation to mental health services in County Roscommon. We well remember the external report into the Roscommon mental health services in September 2017, and those services were rightly condemned right across this House and across this nation. Indeed, there is a report out today showing the concerns young people have about the importance of mental health services going forward. While the Minister has confirmed that those three people are leaving the services in Roscommon, it is crucial that those positions are filled as quickly as possible. We cannot have any gap, and while I have total respect for locums, we need people in permanent positions. As the Minister can imagine, people build up a rapport with their psychologist, nurse, or psychiatrist, and if that is broken it can cause a lot of difficulty for the individuals concerned. I know these cases personally, and some of those people are living with regret. Again, I would appeal to the Minister because it is so important that we get those positions filled as permanent roles as quickly as possible.

I again thank Deputy Eugene Murphy and appreciate his very sincere interest in this. As a constituency Deputy, he has rightly come across families who are interacting with these services and who are dependent on them. He is entirely right that people build up a rapport, a personal relationship, a trust, and a bond with people working in our mental health services. It can be upsetting for people when they hear that staff are moving, but it is even more upsetting when that then develops into a worry that those staff will not be replaced or that services will be transferred to another county. I hope Deputy Eugene Murphy and his constituents can take some comfort today from my assurance that is not the HSE's intention. The HSE's intention is to fill these posts, and in fairness to it, it has taken proactive steps to make sure they are filled on an interim basis. However, I accept absolutely and could not agree with the Deputy more that they need to be filled on a permanent basis. That is the intention of the health service. I have asked to be kept personally informed of this through regular updates from the HSE to my Department and I would be very happy to share them with Deputy Eugene Murphy and to keep him informed.

I am very happy to put on the record today that some of those who are helping and interacting with people who need their assistance and help are doing a fine job. I know of a number of cases personally where the patients concerned are extremely happy and in many cases their lives have taken a new road or twist and many of them have come out of the deep depression they were in. The loss of staff like this is obviously going to affect them.

Going back to the external report and review from September 2017, which I said was damning, there were 27 recommendations in that. I am not going to fire the question willy-nilly at the Minister now, but I would ask him to check on that again to make sure those 27 recommendations are implemented as quickly as possible. A number of them have been implemented but I understand that a number have not. While some of them will of course take longer than others, I ask the Minister to please ensure that those 27 recommendations are all put in place. The mental health services, as the Minister and the Minister for State are well aware, are crucial and so important to society nowadays.

It is lovely to hear such positive feedback about the really important impact our front-line staff are having on the Deputy's constituents in Roscommon, and I will make sure that is passed on to the people working in the mental health services in community healthcare west. I will indeed seek an update on the recommendations from that review, and I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, to correspond with Deputy Eugene Murphy directly on it. My understanding, similar to the Deputy's, is that much progress has been made on some recommendations but it is certainly important that we keep a focus on this and I will ensure that takes place.

Question No. 14 replied to with Written Answers.
Question No. 15 answered with Question No. 9.
Questions Nos. 16 to 21, inclusive, replied to with Written Answers.