‘Changes’ for elderly mental health care at Waterside Hospital

THE Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) have denied that a mental health ward at Waterside Hospital is to close despite fears of staff and a leading union representative.

In a recent response to an Assembly question, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey stated that the ward (Ward 3-Waterside Hospital) was not under threat of closure. In that statement Mr McGimpsey said: “In line with the Bamford Review, older people with mental health needs will undergo comprehensive assessments to assess how best to meet their needs. Ward 3 will provide new interim accommodation for Elderly Mentally Infirm and Functionally Mentally Infirm assessment wards.

“Ward 3 in the Waterside Hospital provides 18 continuing care places for elderly people with mental health problems.”

However, Unison Branch Secretary and former mental health nurse, George McKnight has told the Sentinel that a mental health ward in the facility is doomed to close.

Mr McKnight told the Sentinel: “They still haven’t admitted that a ward is closing and that ward is called Ballycann.”

Whilst agreeing that the Trust have liased with unions and staff, Mr McKnight claimed the WHSCT is not telling the full story.

“The closure of this ward will leave one ward in the whole of Derry to deal with long term elderly mentally ill people,” he said.

A statement from the WHSCT received by the Sentinel stated: “Ward 3 in the Waterside Hospital is not closing. Services provided on Ward 3 are changing. The Trust is in agreement with what has been stated by the Minister.

“We appreciate that this change to service does impact on staff and we have been continuing to engage with staff on the ward their Trade Union representatives throughout all stages of this process.

“Patients/clients currently on Ward 3 have been assessed and plans are in place to meet their care needs in the most suitable environment.”

But, George McKnight reiterated the question: “Is there a mental health ward closing in Waterside Hospital?”

Indeed, the Sentinel also posed this question to both the WHSCT and the department of Health, but only received the reply that is stated in full within this article.

The Sentinel also spoke to nursing staff at the facility who are fearful for their future employment. Although the staff did not wish to be named, one nurse, who has worked there for five years said: “The ward had the ability to cater for 18 patients, but as of now only five patients remain in the facility. We stopped taking admissions last year.

“According to my understanding of the Bamford Review there would not be the provision of funding for care for the long term elderly mentally ill. So the service will stop because of budget cut backs. Over the last few weeks other patients have been shifted to general wards elsewhere or within the Waterside Hospital.