The closure of St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe has been slammed this week as “blatantly politicised decision”.
HSE West confirmed last week that a reconfiguration of mental health services in the Galway-Roscommon area would see the closure of the Ballinasloe unit and a reduction of acute beds in the region from 79 to 57, with 35 located in Galway City and 22 in Roscommon.
An additional 15 specialist beds will be opened at the proposed new acute mental health unit in Galway City once it is constructed at GUH but trade union SIPTU have strongly criticised the move, saying that it is “designed purely to support politicians in Co. Roscommon”.
In a statement, SIPTU Health Division Organiser Paul Hardy said that members of staff at St Brigid’s were “concerned” by plans to close all acute beds at the unit and called on Galway’s political representatives to intervene to stop the changes.
“The supposedly independent assessment of the Ballinasloe site, as compared to Roscommon, does not bear the slightest scrutiny. For example, when assessing the convenience of local hospitals, the team has omitted to consider Portiuncula Hospital, which has a 24-hour A&E department, while assuming that Roscommon still has a fully functioning emergency department, which it does not,” said Mr Hardy.
The SIPTU representative continued to claim that the assessors were “specifically instructed” not to consider one of the criteria of transport links to the proposed acute psychiatric unit at UHG, “presumably because it would have tipped the balance in favour of Ballinasloe”.
“Vital healthcare decisions should not be made on the basis of political strokes and this is nothing short of a stitch-up in progress,” he added.
When contacted for a response to the comments, a spokesperson for HSE West was unavailable. However, the health authority has previously defended its decision to favour community-based services under the Vision for Change programme, saying that the rationale has resulted in acute bed occupancy days being reduced from 100,000 in 2002 to less than 17,000 in 2012 in East Galway.