Evening Vigil in Merlin Park

The NUI Galway society of Students for Sensible Drug Policy is holding an evening time vigil outside of the burned down remains of the Merlin Park addiction clinic on the 20 December at 6.15pm.

As has been discussed in this newspaper previously, the HSE Area Management have decided to relocate the Addiction Service from its scenic, fit-for-purpose location in Merlin Park to a “secure” Unit in UCHG.

This Unit is already overcrowded thanks to the ‘plan’, the ‘vision for change’. This vision will see not only the relocation of the Addiction Service but the closure of 22 beds at St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe.


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To facilitate this closure, management intend to put 10 extra beds in this same secure Unit. How are they missing the simple fact that there is no room? Why then bring even more people into the already overcrowded city hospital when there is a perfectly good site in Merlin Park, where the Addiction Service has operated very successfully for over 25 years? Have management thought out any of their plans long term?

These are all very short term solutions and in the long term these decisions are going to impact very negatively on both addiction and mental health services, to the detriment of the service user and their health. These decisions to close beds and relocate services were made without consultation or engagement with frontline clinical staff.

The aim of this group (and Facebook page) is to raise awareness and coordinate a community response to reverse this outrageous decision by the HSE in Galway/Roscommon promised weeks ago that there would be no more cloak and dagger operations.

Communication with service users, their families, staff and the general public, was to be their key priority. So why won’t they agree to meet with those affected by their decisions? What do they have to hide from the public they serve?

On 26 August last, in response to the HSE’s decision to close the 22 beds in Ballinasloe (which were part of a state-of-the-art facility recently refurbished at a cost of 2.8 million euro to the taxpayer), a public meeting was called.

From this meeting a committee was formed and has been named the ‘East Galway Mental Health Action Group’. This action group shares the view of the SSDP, in that policy must be sensible and evidence based.

However, we seem to find ourselves dealing with a management structure that makes up the rules as it goes along, with little regard for best practice or for patients’ welfare. It is evident that the public are not even to be dignified with a face to face meeting with the powers that be.

The action group has been repeatedly denied such courtesy. The HSE have in turn refused to take on board any advice from clinical specialists working at ground level. Instead they have threatened disciplinary action on said specialists in order to neutralize them.

Gathering from 6.15pm at the hospital gates, the vigil shall serve as a platform, to facilitate public discussion on the ramifications of the HSE’s plans for the services – services that have served as lifelines in the West by helping not only patients, but also their families and in earnest, the community as a whole.

To highlight the need for sensitivity, anonymity and confidentiality that is required when working with services of this nature (both in the cases of addiction and mental health issues), plain white masks will be available on the night, so that those who wish to do so can express their concerns, share their experiences and voice their opinions on the HSE’s plans, without fear of being identified or singled out.

All are welcome and those wishing to get involved are asked to contact Emmett on 0863580654 or alternatively on emmettsnumail@gmail.com. More info is available re NUIG SSDP online @ https://www.facebook.com/nuigssdp/events and for the East Galway Mental Health Action Group https://www.facebook.com/Galwayeast22?fref=ts.

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