Tuesday 19 February 2019

Parents make their voices heard on child mental health issue

Families are concerned that no one will want consultant psychiatrist role with CAMHS

The protest outside Slaney House
The protest outside Slaney House
Mayor Tony Dempsey and fellow councillor Davy Hynes
Caroline Smith, Jane Johnstone, Cora Mullhall, Luke Smith and Sandra Mullhall

Anna Hayes

Up to 40 people attended a protest at Slaney House, the location of Wexford's Child and Mental Health Service (CAMHS), on Tuesday last, calling for development of the service and clarity on the recent staffing concerns.

Consultant Psychiatrist in the Wexford service, Dr Kieran Moore resigned his position last month, saying that the service had become 'untenable and unsafe'. He told a Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Mental Healthcare about his experiences in the service and voiced his concern that there was a lack of understanding of what CAMHS did.

The protest was organised by local parents Sandra Mulhall and Caroline Smith, both of whom have had kids using the service in recent times, and Jane Johnstone who is well-known for her own struggles to secure HSE support for her two autistic sons Evan and Daniel.

Ms Mulhall explained that her son was only 15 but had been admitted to the psychiatric unit in Waterford twice in the past eight years. He suffered from ADHD, ASD, and oppositional defiance. She added that there was also a question mark over a possible diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, something she attributes to the stress caused by the lack of services offered by the HSE.

She added: 'The team in Slaney House is wonderful. But there's a lack of services and there is only so much they can do. Dr Moore will be gone in the very near future and who would want to take on the job he's leaving? We are still waiting on the management to tell us if we will have a psychiatrist and, if not, where we will have to go.'

The protest was attended by a number of public representatives including Mayor of Wexford, Cllr Tony Dempsey who said he wanted to show his support for the parents who were having difficulty accessing mental health services for their kids.

'The departure of Dr Moore and other staff is very worrying, and Wexford County Council is writing to Minister Jim Daly to ask for an update on the recruitment process. I think it's necessary to draw attention to the need for improved services. The current services are very poor - if you have a child diagnosed as needing speech therapy, he probably won't get an appointment for two years, by which time the problem has got worse.'

He pointed out that positive mental health began at a young age and the service needed dramatic improvement to enable that.

In an open letter of protest, addressed to Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly, and to HSE Management, parents Ms Mulhall and Ms Smith outlined their concerns, asking that the mental health of children and young people be given as equal regard as physical health.

They highlighted a number of issues with the service, chief among them being the prospects of hiring a child and adolescent consultant psychiatrist to replace Dr Kieran Moore, whose resignation last month threw the service into turmoil.

The parents said they did not believe any prospective candidate would deem the current facility fit for purpose and, in fact, would find it to be a health and safety risk to both patients and staff.

Scheduled appointments, they say, have been cancelled because of a lack of space while medication reviews are often delayed when the psychiatrist is on 'well earned leave' with no cover in their absence.

'We are being realistic when we say these conditions cannot be acceptable to any potential candidates and we are calling on you to provide facilities which are consistent in meeting the needs of children and adolescents in mental health distress in Wexford - an acceptable facility, we believe, will attract the professionals the service needs.'

The parents highlighted one shocking incident whereby a young person narrowly escaped serious injury having attempted to jump over a bannister in the building during an episode of acute distress. They said that despite the dangers highlighted by this incident, vulnerable kids were still asked to attend the building for appointments.

There was also a question mark over the holding of clinics from July onwards with parents, they said, not told whether their kids' files will remain in Wexford or be transferred to another facility.

The relationship between the client and the psychiatrist was key to the success of the client's treatment, they pointed out, adding that they were concerned that anyone who might be employed on a short term or locum basis would not fulfil this vital element in the treatment of people. They asked that management be mindful of that fact in planning a solution for the crisis.

The HSE has said that it is proactively operating a national and international recruitment campaign for child and adolescent psychiatrists.

Wexford People

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