A PNA Delegation met with the Minister for Mental Health, Mr Jim Daly and Dept of Health Officials on Sept 20th to highlight our concerns in relation to the crisis in Mental Health Services (MHS). We highlighted the crisis in recruitment and retention of nurses in the service. We made it very clear to the Minister that we do not accept the Public Service Commission Report statement that " the commission is not persuaded based on evidence available, that current pay arrangements are, in themselves, a significant impediment to recruitment."
The Minister was informed that the HSE acknowledge there is a difficulty in relation to recruitment and retention in the MHS. It was highlighted that the shortage of nurses in the MHS is exacerbating which is supported by the outcome of our recent survey of branches which indicates that there are 700 vacancies nationally, over 200 extra since our last survey in November 2017. It was outlined how this is impacting on patient care and the implementation of Vision for Change resulting in an overtime bill of approximately €300,000 per week which clearly demonstrates a severe nursing recruitment and retention problem.
The ongoing dispute in relation to overcrowding and understaffing in CHO5 was also addressed, outlining our dissatisfaction at the scandalous practice of patients sleeping on chairs and mattresses and how distressing this is for both patients and nurses. The Minister was also informed that the Waterford Services Managers have no regard for Vision for Vision for Change and refuse to comply with this national policy.
The lack of engagement with the PNA in relation to the review of Vision for Change was brought to the attention of the meeting, considering we are the only stakeholders to have conducted three significant pieces of research in relation to the implementation of Vision for Change. The Minister stated he would raise this with the Chairman of the review group.
We outlined our dissatisfaction at the diminution of the Mental Health Division as this will leave the Mental Health budget less protected. The diminution of this division is also contrary to Vision for Change which recommended that Mental Health should have a specific Directorate.
We welcomed the additional ANP posts recently approved by the Dept of Health for CAMHS, However, due to time constraints we were unable to address our concerns regarding CAMHS. The Minister has however, committed to a specific meeting in relation to CAMHS following the budget.
We also welcomed the development of the new Forensic Service currently under construction in Portrane. We believe that this service can be a centre of excellence and nursing should be to the forefront.We strongly advocated for a nursing strategy in this regard and requested the support of the Dept of Health on the matter.
As already stated we will be meeting the Minister post budget in relation to CAMHS.