'I am begging you to intervene': Minister asked to help Cork woman who fears she will die without inpatient treatment for eating disorder

'I am begging you to intervene': Minister asked to help Cork woman who fears she will die without inpatient treatment for eating disorder

The 30-year-old Cork is currently on a waiting list for outpatient counselling but believes this will not be enough to save her life.

A CORK TD has begged the Minister with responsibility for mental health to intervene in the case of a Cork woman who fears she will die if she does not get in-patient treatment for anorexia and bulimia.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns today urged Minister Mary Butler: “I am begging you to please, please intervene and do something about this.” 

The 30-year-old Cork woman spoke to The Echo on April 8 and highlighted that she cannot get in-patient treatment through the public system and she does not have health insurance. 

She is currently on a waiting list for outpatient counselling but believes this will not be enough to save her life as she believes she needs inpatient treatment, which costs up to €60,000 privately.

This morning, during a debate on a Sinn Féin motion on mental health, Deputy Cairns raised the case and said she hoped her colleagues in the Dáil would read the article today. 

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns has raised the woman's case in the Dáil. 
Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns has raised the woman's case in the Dáil. 

“In February, I raised the shocking situation whereby no funding was allocated under the National Eating Disorder Plan for 2020 and that none of the €1.6 million allocated in 2019 was spent," she said. "Responses to my parliamentary questions revealed that the decision to temporarily pause the nationally-planned developments of eating disorder services was made for operational reasons rather than clinical, and that funding was diverted to meet existing demands to provide additional clinical supports such as agency staffing.” 

She said there needs to be clear assurances that this would not happen again.

“Bureaucratic decisions cannot be allowed to affect the treatment of vulnerable groups.” 

She said eating disorders disproportionately present among young women. She added that since she raised the issue in February, there have been “several cases of young women having serious difficulty accessing appropriate medical care for severe eating disorder”.

 “These cases indicate that there is still a significant gap between government’s intention and on-the-ground healthcare services for people who desperately need them. 

The HSE currently provides three in-patient beds for eating disorders. Three. People who desperately need care simply cannot get it.” 

Highlighting that people do not tolerate waiting lists for driving licences, passports and vaccinations, she said: “Yet, for mental health treatment, waiting lists are normal and accepted.” 

She said there were 448 children and young people on the waiting list for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services in the Cork and Kerry region at the end of December, with 98 waiting for over a year.

Broken promises highlighted

During the debate, Cork North Central Sinn Fein TD Thomas Gould said: “Sinn Féin has engaged with service providers, service users and advocacy groups locally and nationally. What we are witnessing here in Cork North Central is being mirrored across the state - alarming increases in depression, isolation, loneliness and anxiety. Over 9 in 10 respondents to our survey in Cork on mental health believe that there are not enough mental health supports available in Cork.” 

He highlighted one case of a man in his constituency who described his treatment in the mental health system as “broken promise after broken promise”.

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon sought an amendment to the motion, calling for ring-fenced funding for eating disorders to ensure all eating disorder hubs are operating and ensure there is a community eating disorder team accessible in every Community Healthcare Organisation area.

A hub has been set up in Cork but is not yet fully staffed.

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