Clonmel, Co Tipperary: HSE “Bullying” Silenced Consultant Psychiatrist T.D. Claims

7 Sep

THE HSE has been accused of “bullying and silencing” a senior consultant who spoke out against the imminent closure of a 49-bed acute psychiatric unit.

The allegation was made yesterday by Tipperary South TD Seamus Healy, who said consultant psychiatrist Dr Alan Moore had been subjected to “bullying of the worst kind”.

Earlier this year, Dr Moore led a campaign of opposition to the closure of St Michael’s acute psychiatric unit in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. The move was confirmed last week by the HSE, with inpatient beds earmarked for acute psychiatric cases set to be transferred to Ennis, Co Clare, and Kilkenny.

Dr Moore had said such a development would cause difficulties for patients and families and that problems identified by the Mental Health Commission with the building could be rectified for under €100,000.

It is understood that, in the meantime, the HSE sent a letter to Dr Moore, warning him to refrain from discussing the issue in the media without approval or he could face disciplinary action. There was no comment yesterday from Dr Moore on the matter.

However, Mr Healy, who is also the chairman of the Clonmel-based Save Our Hospital Services committee, said there was “anger, shock and disbelief at the recent bullying and silencing by the Health Service Executive of Dr Alan Moore”.

Describing the consultant psychiatrist as a “powerful advocate for and on behalf of mental health services in Co Tipperary”, he said the committee supported Dr Moore and has “renewed its determination to ensure the continued provision of acute in-patient psychiatric services”.

The psychiatrist was doing no more than “expressing the unanimous views of his south Tipperary consultant colleagues”.

In a statement, the HSE yesterday said it encouraged all involved in delivering “public statements” to be clear and factual. “Information given to the public should be expressed in clear and factual terms. It must never cause unnecessary public concern or personal distress nor should it raise unrealistic expectations.”

Under the consultants’ contract of 2008, a consultant “may advocate on behalf of patients/service users or persons awaiting access to service” but that such advocacy should take place “within the employment context through the relevant clinical director or other line manager”.

Last week, the HSE said that almost half the inpatient beds at Clonmel will be transferred to Ennis by the end of October, with the rest to switch to Kilkenny by the end of March, when St Michael’s will close.

Replacing it will be an eight-bed “crisis house” for acute cases, day hospitals in Clonmel and Cashel and home-based treatment teams for psychiatric patients.

However, consultants and GPs have said there will always be a need for an acute psychiatric inpatient unit in the area and the alternative services proposed will not be an adequate replacement, while patients and their families face problems travelling to Kilkenny or Ennis.

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