Senator John Kelly has said that County Roscommon’s mental health service was at an “all-time low” – and that closing the Rosalie Unit at Áras Naomh Chaolain, Castlerea, would have amounted to “political suicide”.
The Ballaghaderreen politician wrote a strongly worded email to Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch on March 25, at the height of concerns that the unit, for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, was on the brink of closure.
He said that it had been brought to his attention that patients were being vetted with a view to discharge to private or public nursing homes.
He was highly critical of the move – which has since been reversed – especially with the General Election looming.
“These people have been here for 20 years plus and consider it their home,” said Senator Kelly, in an email released under the Freedom of Informaton Act.
“There are articles in the paper from relatives of these stating that they would be better off dead.
“It’s very emotive and it’s political suicide at this time, 11 months out from election…I need reassurances on the future of this facility or else I can forget about going before the electorate next year.”
Senator Kelly had broader criticisms of the mental health service and was particularly scathing about management of the Health Service Executive.
“Morale within the psychiatric service has deteriorated since your meeting with them last year,” he wrote in his email to Minister Lynch.
“No new nursing posts and no engagement from management with the staff.
“Des Kavanagh (Psychiatric Nurses’ Association general secretary) said that none of this crack is happening in any other county except Roscommon.
“What I understand is that management are the problem and they are the ones advising you that everything is hunky dory in the garden. They are not.”
It emerged earlier this year that, in 2014, the Health Service Executive sent back €6 million of their mental health budget unspent for counties Roscommon and Galway.