LEADING psychiatrist Dr Moosajee Bhamjee has warned that waiting times in the Clare Mental Health Services would continue to increase unless more funding is allocated by Government to address mental health issues. Expressing concern about the lack of funding, Dr Bhamjee claimed some patients could be forced to wait up to six months to attend a public psychiatrist or a counsellor, while others might have to wait between four to six weeks for an outpatients’ appointment.
He warned that the reduction of almost €4 million in funding for the Clare Mental Health Service following a reduction in the overall national allocation for mental health services, would ensure that there would be no money for capital projects such as hostels or rehabilitation programmes for a number of years.
However, the Mid-West HSE pointed out that there is no reduction in the money available locally, as payment for a number of services for some patients were transferred to other HSE departments.
Dr Bhamjee claimed some of the five multidisciplinary teams in Clare are not fully staffed and are without key health professionals, such as addiction counsellor, occupational therapist or psychologist.
Fine Gael deputy Pat Breen said there has been an increase in the number of calls from Clare constituents who are in a desperate way about losing jobs or trying to pay a mortgage. In response to a recent Dáil question, Deputy Breen was informed by the HSE that funding for Clare Mental Health Service, was down from €26.7m in 2008 to €22.855m in 2009.
Deputy Breen said promises from Government and Health Minister Mary Harney on the provision of €25m to implement the national mental health policy, Vision for Change, has not materialised. Given that up to 500 people are dying by suicide nationally, he stressed that funding for Clare Mental Health Service should be increased, stressing this is not the time to reduce finance.
Deputy Joe Carey called for more work to be carried out on the prevention of suicide and depression in schools, following the revelation that there has been a 150% increase in the number of young people contacting Teenline, a suicide prevention helpline, since January.
“Not a month goes by when we don’t hear of a tragic suicide in County Clare. We cannot allow our suicide rates continue to spiral. Suicide hits every age group and social grouping in Ireland. It cripples families and communities and given the current economic climate, now, more than ever, we need to get to grips with this issue,” he said.
A HSE spokesman explained to The Clare Champion that the reduction in budget is largely accounted for by changes in reporting and accounting processes, rather than a real reduction in monies available for services. “€2.8 million relates to superannuation and income levy and how they are reported and a maintenance budget, which is now recorded under the Local Health Office rather than with the mental health service.
“The other €1 million reduction largely results from the transfer of a number of clients to older persons services, which has resulted in a saving of pay expenses recorded under mental health services.
“While we are operating under the financial constraints and employment criteria, there has been no significant reduction in the level of mental health services being provided at community level,” he stated.
Meanwhile, World Mental Health Day is this Saturday and Mental Health Ireland (MHI), the largest voluntary organisation involved in mental health issues, is marking the event with a number of initiatives.
Fr Harry Bohan and Professor Patricia Casey will host a public forum this Thursday at the Temple Gate Hotel. We’re all in it together under the theme of Friendship and Community-Nurturing community spirit to enhance mental and emotional wellbeing in these challenging times, begins at 7.30pm.
In North Clare on Saturday, a Burren Walk with Tony Kirby, will begin from Cassidy’s Pub, Carron, at 11am. There will also be a number of choral events on Friday and Saturday in Ennis, Shannon, Kilrush and Ennistymon.