Tuesday 17 September 2019

Blows continue for children's mental health services in Wexford

Dr Kieran Moore
Dr Kieran Moore

Pádraig Byrne

Already overstretched and massively under-resourced, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Co Wexford have been dealt another blow as yet another member of staff has confirmed they are leaving their role, citing burnout and unworkable conditions.

According to Raymond Shannon of Wexford Mental Health Warriors, a Wexford based psychologist is due to leave at the end of May, putting even more pressure on a service that already cannot keep up with demand.

While the disgraceful state of CAMHS in Wexford has been well documented on the pages of this newspaper in the past, the issue has gained some national traction in recent weeks, placing South Wexford among the very worst areas in the country when it comes to CAMHS. Just last week, parents from Wexford Mental Health Warriors spoke to Sean O'Rourke about the lack of services and recounted their own harrowing stories in the hope of provoking some much needed action from the government and the HSE.

'We've been getting brilliant coverage on the issue,' Mr Shannon said. 'But now we need answers from the Minister. Under the government's 'Vision for Change' plan there should be 11 staff per population of 50,000. In the Wexford South we have 5.5 staff for 80,000 people. These are the government's own figures and recommendations. We haven't made this up.'

The plight of CAMHS in Wexford seems to form a vicious circle. It's nearly a year since Dr Kieran Moore very publicly resigned his position as a consultant child psychiatrist in Wexford, citing completely unsuitable work conditions that were 'not fit for purpose' at Slaney House and staff feeling completely overwhelmed and 'burnt out'. With workers in this sector being in such high demand, they can essentially pick where they want to work and with Wexford having incredibly poor facilities, the county cannot attract child psychologists to take on a role here.

Since Dr Moore's resignation, Wexford has only been covered at weekends by a consultant psychologist travelling from Galway. While the HSE has confirmed that it will be relocating CAMHS services from outdated and unfit for purpose Slaney House to the refurbished Arden House in Whitemill, it's something which has been consistently delayed. Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace last week raised the matter in the Dáil and expressed his dismay at the notion that it could be September by the time the new facility is open.

'It is nearly a year since Dr. Kieran Moore resigned from his position as consultant child psychiatrist in CAMHS in Wexford and there is still no replacement,' he said. 'Dr Moore specifically cited the working conditions in the CAMHS facility at Slaney House, Wexford, as reason for his resignation. I understood in September 2018, following a meeting with Minister Daly that the new CAMHS facility at Arden House would be open in a matter of weeks.'

Deputy Wallace added that following a parliamentary question in November, he was told Arden House would open in the first quarter of 2019. This was later pushed back to July and now it looks like it could be September.

'This latest response to my parliamentary question flags the third quarter for Arden House being open for service provision,' he said. 'That could mean July, but it could mean September either. And it's hard to have faith in the third quarter as a deadline at this stage anyway. I am not sure how we expect to attract a consultant child psychiatrist to replace Dr. Moore if we have not improved the working conditions that he cited as the reason for his own resignation.'

Deputy Wallace then relayed a shocking story.

'It's now over two years since I told the Minister about being contacted by the mother of a seven year old boy in Wexford,' he continued. 'That boy had waited for a year and a half to access CAMHS and occupational therapy. The boy couldn't attend the mainstream school classes as he had expressed a wish to kill himself in front of other students. He was seven years old. The boy was referred to the senior child psychologist in Wexford in March 2015. A seven year old Wexford child who had expressed a desire to kill himself but had to wait over two years to get the help he needed.'

Deputy Wallace described the lack of urgency from the government as 'frightening' and said 'it's a sad reflection of what this government thinks about children in Wexford'.

In a bid to keep the topic to the fore in the minds of the government, Wexford Mental Health Warriors are hosting a protest march starting at The Arc Cinema car-park at 12 noon this Saturday, May 4.

Wexford People

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