With the first patients set to move into the new state of the new state of the art acute Mental Health Unit in Letterkenny on Monday next, the Director of Nursing for the Donegal Mental Health Services, Kevin Mills spoke this week of the “journey of change” that represents what he termed “the winding down of the old and the opening of the new.”
Located on the original site of the former mental health unit attached to Letterkenny General Hospital, the superbly appointed 34 bed unit, which cost 5.95 million euro to construct, was described as a “massive landmark” in the development of the services in the county.
“We’re very proud of this purpose built facility - it has been long overdue,” said Mr. Mills who said the new unit, to be officially opened by Junior Health Minister, Kathleen Lynch, on Monday 26th, met all the standards set out by the Mental Health Commission.
The opening will herald a significant step from the days when St. Conal’s Hospital formed the base for the mental health services in Donegal.
After vacating the former building at the hospital, the unit relocated to Carnamuggagh where patients and staff have been accomodated for the past four years.
A special open day hosted at the new Department of Psychiatry on Tuesday offered families, carers, voluntary organisations and the general public the opportunity to visit and tour the unit which will offer inpatient care to service users over the age of eighteen.
Visitors were shown around the facility which has been designed with the needs of patients and staff in mind and includes both day and night areas, recreation rooms, therapy and treatment rooms, dining areas and training kitchens, and consultation offices. There are four, two and single bed units contained in the building and patients will also have access to computer facilities.
Mother and baby accommodation are also included while facilities have been specifically designed to accommodate people over 65 with specific mental health needs.
In addition, the local Mental Health service focus on rehabilitation and recovery will be enhanced by the fully equipped recreational and occupational therapy departments at the new unit, along with administration, treatment, teaching and tribunal facilities. The new unit will support a comprehensive integrated psychiatric service for a defined catchment area of approximately 145,000 population. It will provide a wide range of treatments, multidisciplinary interventions, counselling and support geared towards meeting individual needs. The original unit on the site was built in 1979 but had fallen into a state of disrepair. “It wasn’t fit for purpose and we had flooding problems and a leaking roof,” recalled Nurse Manager, Hughie McDaid. “It was horrific.” The relocation to the building at Carnamuggagh upgraded the services but, now accomodated under the roof of the new purpose built unit, the services have been significantly transformed. “The people who have been visiting here today have been very impressed,” Mr. McDaid indicated.+