Some 60 beds remain unopened at the new National Forensic Mental Health Service because of a lack of staff, a survey conducted by the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) has found.
The general secretary of the association, Peter Hughes, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the national survey found there were 700 mental health nursing staff vacancies in services throughout the country.
The survey, which was conducted through PNA branches in the past month, indicated that the staff recruitment and retention crisis was now having an impact on services in every part of the country.
Mr Hughes called for an accelerated recruitment process, a financial inducement to encourage Irish nurses working abroad to return to work in Ireland and accommodation subsidies in urban areas.
The recruitment process in the HSE currently takes between three and six months, he said.
Mr Hughes pointed out that staffing shortages had already resulted in the protracted closure of the Linn Dara CAMHS services and the closure of the 16-bed subacute unit in the St James' Hospital psychiatric unit.
“With the full extent of mental health nursing vacancies revealed in our survey, PNA now have a very real concern that this situation will result in further bed closures and curtailment in services.
“St James', Linn Dara and the National Forensic Mental Health Service are simply the most visible examples of the impacts that nursing shortages are having on mental health services right across the country.
“We are now seeing the knock-on effects of bed closures on services as the system tries to cope with a steady exodus of staff and the growing number of staffing vacancies at every level.
“It is totally unacceptable that nursing vacancies have been allowed to increase to such an extent that beds are being closed and vital services are being denied to the communities involved,” he added.
The PNA figures show there are currently 85 nursing vacancies in St Joseph’s Mental Health Intellectual Disability Services Portrane Hospital, 66 in St Lomans/Tallaght Dublin, and there are already 25 vacancies in the recently opened National Forensic Mental Health Service in Portrane.
The survey reveals there are vacancies across the country, with 60 vacancies throughout Cork, more than 40 vacancies in the Galway mental health services and 30 vacancies in Louth/Meath services.
“We are witnessing an exodus of nurses and graduates from our mental health services to pursue opportunities abroad and yet there seems to be no urgency on the part of management to understand why this is happening.”