Government urged to sign ‘surge capacity’ deal for mental health services

ireland
Government Urged To Sign ‘Surge Capacity’ Deal For Mental Health Services Government Urged To Sign ‘Surge Capacity’ Deal For Mental Health Services
Sinn Féin's Mark Ward said private hospitals could help relieve increased demand on mental health services. Photo: PA Images.
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Sarah Mooney

The Government should sign a “surge capacity” deal with private hospitals for the provision of mental health services amid the pandemic, a Sinn Féin TD has urged.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on mental health, Mark Ward, said private mental health hospitals could help relieve increased demand on mental health services.

The Dublin Mid-West TD said the health service faces a “mental health emergency,” with people currently presenting to already-overcrowded emergency departments in hospitals.

“The Government and the HSE have entered into 'surge capacity' deal with private hospitals. The deal between the HSE and other private hospitals will allow the health service to use up to 30 per cent of the private hospitals’ capacity, depending on the incidence rate of Covid-19,” Mr Ward said.

“I am not surprised that the Government have failed to deliver the same deal when it comes to mental health provision.”

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Mr Ward said he had written to Minister of State for Mental Health Mary Butler, asking if there had been any consideration of providing private mental health care to public patients amid an “unprecedented” number of people presenting with pandemic-related mental health issues.

“This would take pressure off our public hospitals who are dealing with the Covid emergency, in addition to providing essential care for people who are suffering with their mental health,” he said.

Mr Ward said he had also asked the Minister to consider using private mental health outreach services to treat patients within their community.

Government funding

Mr Ward criticised current mental health care provision by the State, saying the Government had failed to adequately resource and fund services to meeting rising demand.

“Late last year the Government announced its winter plan for health. At no point did this plan refer to mental health, despite the stakeholders warning that we were amid a mental health tsunami,” he said.

The Sinn Féin TD said funding for mental health as a percentage of the overall health budget had fallen to six per cent in 2021, with “international best practice” recommending the number sit around the 16 per cent mark.

Previously speaking at the launch of Budget 2021, Minister of State Mary Butler said more than €1 billion had been allocated to mental health.

“This is an increase of €50 million on last year’s budget and comprises €38 million for new measures, including the continuation of Covid-19 supports, and €12 million to meet existing needs,” Ms Butler said.

Ms Butler said new measures would include enhancement of mental health community teams, child and adolescent mental health services, crisis resolution services, development of clinical care programmes and investment in peer support workers and employment supports.

The Minister also said €15 million had been dedicated to reinforcing the Government’s response to mental health challenges posed by Covid-19.

“As part of this response, investment will be made in step down beds in the community, e-mental health supports, supporting the NGO sector in providing critical mental health services, in addition to capital works,” she said.

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