31 May 2017
By Bryan Smyth
Sinn Féin TD and deputy Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley (Cork East) has called for data to be collected on suicide deaths in Irish hospitals in order to highlight the need for better mental health services in general hospital settings. He made his comments following a response from the HSE that no data is collected by them on suicide deaths in their units or immediately following discharge from their services.
Deputy Buckley said:
“I recently requested the HSE provide me with figures for the number of suicides which have been recorded on the grounds of public hospitals following a presentation to accident and emergency departments in the past five years. I was told no such data is collected.
“In order to provide adequate services where and when they are needed, we need to collect data and allow this to inform policy. It makes no sense that the Department of Health, the HSE or its services make no effort to determine how many suicides take place in their services or immediately after discharge.
“From media reports, we know that there were two cases of deaths by suicide in Blanchardstown hospital, but there may be more cases. We just don’t know. I have spoken to countless families that tell stories of their loved ones being refused care at overcrowded A&E departments or be discharged only to take their lives within a day or two.
“Identifying the scale of the problem, the potential causes and risk factors will not solve the problem completely but only by acting with this information in mind can we truly tackle the problem effectively.
“If a person in mental health distress presents to A&E, they should not be turned away; if they are at risk of suicide, they should not be placed alone in a separate room or discharged without any care provided, but this is happening and it is resulting in tragic deaths. This is not the fault of the staff but the fault of underfunding which has led to severe shortages of staff, overcrowding, high waiting lists and no out of hours mental health provision.”