NORTHSIDE residents have warned that cuts to a crucial psychiatric service in Darndale could be the difference between life and death.
Concerned residents recently established a lobby group to highlight how resources are dwindling for their local mental health service, which is offered from the Darndale Health Centre.
Margaret Corr (55), who says she owes her life to the psychiatric service, is among those who are fearful that the cuts in resources will have a detrimental effect on the most vulnerable in society.
“I was a patient of the service for around five years and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be alive today were it not for it,” Ms Corr told Northside People.
“I suffered very badly from depression and neurosis and had to be hospitalised for nine months.
“The psychiatric service in Darndale helped me when I got out of hospital because I could go there once a week to talk to psychiatrists and psychologists and eventually I was able to go off my medication.
“There’s no doubt that it was my life saver and it kept me sane when I was going through such a bad time.”
Ms Corr said the service is not only vital for the elderly but for the young population who feel comfortable availing of the service in their locality.
Angela McLoughlin, who works as a community worker in the area and has referred many people to the psychiatric service for support, feels the service is being “slowly taken away” from the area.
“If anything the service should be given more resources rather than being reduced,” she said.
“The demand is so high that it’s got a waiting list of about 60 people who want to avail of psychiatric support.
“The service used to have two nurses but now I understand it’s only got one nurse.”
Ms McLoughlin said the service is vital in the area where suicide accounts for many needless deaths.
“We have buried so many people from the area through suicide,” she added.
“From my own experience I know just how many people come to us for help who think that suicide is their only option. To us this is a matter of life or death.”
A spokeswoman for the Health Service Executive (HSE) said the service has one full-time community mental health nurse but also has cover in nearby Coolock.
“The nurse assigned to this service is full time (37.5hrs),” she told Northside People.
“There was a second staff nurse and this was reduced in January 2012 due to the staff shortages caused by retirements and no recruitment.
“The service also has access to 30 places in the day hospital in Coolock and there is a staff nurse assigned as the key worker for the Darndale patients in the day hospital.
“A new initiative is in place since September 2011 which is a nurse-led, seven-day home care team for the Dublin north (including Darndale) area which includes an out-of-hours crisis team covering weekends and bank holidays.”
The spokeswoman pointed out that the Darndale service is being readjusted.
“We are aligning services to primary care networks and our Coolock service is in the same network,” she stated.
The spokeswoman said that a consultant currently attends the Darndale centre for four sessions per week.
“Outside of that the Out-Patient Department (OPD) medical service is available from Coolock,” she added.
“The Darndale consultant is also based in our admission unit and is contactable throughout the week.”
Artane/Whitehall ward councillor Larry O’Toole (SF) has called for resources to be ploughed back into the psychiatric service in Darndale.
“On one hand we’re being told that the area is getting a new primary health centre and on the other we know just how much the existing health services in Darndale are being cut,” he said.
“I am calling for the psychiatric service to be brought back to its full complement of staff.”