Blow to child psychiatric patients as doctors resign
Wexford is in the grip of a child psychiatric services crisis following the announcement of the resignations of two senior paediatric psychologists from their posts.
Dr Kieran Moore, a specialist consultant paediatric psychiatrist based in Slaney House in Wexford town, said he had worked in the region for the past 16 years and cannot give any more to the failed service.
Describing conditions as unsafe and unfair on the Wexford children who use them, Dr Moore said children are not receiving the care they need anywhere in Ireland and especially not in County Wexford.
He said: 'It is with a heavy heart I'm leaving. I really love working here.'
Dr Moore said despite his best efforts in advocating for a proper service for children as young as three and up, there have been no improvements. 'What the team is being asked to do is absolutely unsafe and unfair for children. It's not a service in my view, despite my best efforts,' he said.
Dr Moore told an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday that he and two colleagues, (including a child psychiatrist based in Gorey), were resigning from their roles, which committee members said would leave Wexford and Waterford without public consultant psychiatric services for children from mid-July unless the positions are filled. On Thursday, he said there was supposed to be 30 clinicians working in the greater Wexford region but just 5½ posts were filled at present.
Dr Moore said there were no in-patient beds in Wexford and that when he needs a child to go into hospital, 'I've to fill out a form which takes an hour and fax it to four different in-patient units', all of which are a long distance away.
'Then they will decide whether a child can get a bed. In the vast majority of cases children don't get beds and they never get them urgently,' he said.
If allocated a bed the child is far away from their doctor, school, family and friends, exacerbating their condition. Dr Moore said the building he works in had slugs crawling along the floor, no curtains or blinds, no room to examine a child, no couch or access to bloods following testing, and no panic button for staff as recently as 2017 when minor improvement works were carried out. 'The children I see are ill and on medication and they need these facilities and I don't have them.'
He said there is no locum cover, adding that the demand on mental health services is growing, with one in four children having difficulties and up to one in ten requiring specialist care.
'They are ill, the same as a diabetic or a child with asthma is ill. The primary care psychiatric services are hugely under-resourced and there is a four year waiting list to action services. We have patients sometimes who are potentially dangerous. A psychiatric facility will have people who are unwell and upset, and there's no proper panic alarm for staff, the chairs are supposed to be bolted down so they can't be used as weapons,' he said.
He said the staff in Slaney House are 'burnt out', adding that work is being 'farmed out' to private operators. 'There is no coordinated way of treating children. There are children who have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and depression. These are life-long illnesses. They all require huge care and they are not getting it,' he told the Alan Corcoran radio show.
Dr Moore, who is moving to work at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, said: 'These children will die ten to 15 years younger. As a society we need to wake up to the way we treat children. Children with psychiatric illnesses are treated as second class citizens. Often their parents themselves are as depressed as the children themselves. They have to wait up to three years to know what's going on with their child.'
Calling for two to three paediatric beds in Wexford General Hospital, Dr Moore said: 'It's simple logic. I really think, with all due respect to management, that this really is not good enough. It doesn't cost a huge amount of money.'
The HSE has said it is operating national and international recruitment campaigns for consultant child and adolescent psychiatrists which would be drawn on to fill positions on a permanent basis in Wexford and Waterford. 'Among additional options being looked at are vacancies being filled on an interim or temporary basis, inclusive of the possibility of utilising consultant psychiatrists from neighbouring HSE Community Healthcare Services,' it said in a statement.