STAFF at the Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital in Omagh fear that the number of beds in the acute mental health facility will be cut by a third when refurbishment works begins early next year, a local councillor has warned.
Anne Marie Fitzgerald said that concerned health workers had contacted her after learning of the Western Trust’s plans to refurbish both Elm and Lime Wards.
Mrs Fitzgerald said that the wards currently had a total of 26 beds, but that staff were informed that this would be reduced by nine to 17
after the refurbishment was completed.
While the Western Trust has admitted that the number of beds could be reduced temporarily, it insisted that there were no plans to make this permanent.
The Omagh councillor has sent an email to Trust chief executive Anne Kilgallen seeking clarity over what is being proposed.
Mrs Fitzgerald said, “The health care workers were told about the plans at the end of last week and are quite concerned about what will happen.
“Over the weekend, the mental health crisis team were told that there were no beds available across the North. I’m told that this occurs on a regular basis.
“Mental health services are already under immense pressure.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Western Trust confirmed that the Acute Mental Health Facility (Elm and Lime Wards) will undergo a three-month programme of refurbishment, starting in early January 2020.
The spokesperson said, “This project of works will focus on enhancing the quality, safety and physical environment of the facility for the future.”
She said there was “no plan or intention” to reduce the bed numbers permanently within the Elm and Lime facility.
“However, there is the possibility that a small number of beds could be reduced temporarily during the three month period to facilitate the on-site refurbishment works.”
The spokesperson added, “The Trust acknowledges the ongoing pressures across the region for acute mental health provision in respect of bed pressures, particularly at weekends given increasing demands and will continue to work with the Department of Health to ensure we meet the needs of our patients.”