HSE Bereavement Service - too little, too late?

Donegal’s HSE Bereavement Service has come in for criticism this week for its slow response to calls for help.

Donegal’s HSE Bereavement Service has come in for criticism this week for its slow response to calls for help.

It has taken two weeks for them to respond to two different requests for counselling and when a call was finally returned, it could only refer the caller to bereaved counselling services almost 40 miles from the caller’s home.

A Donegal resident who experienced delays in reaching the service contacted Donegal on Sunday to express the family’s disappointment at the response.

“Our GP told us to contact the service in St Conal’s Hospital in Letterkenny. We did but all we got was an answering machine. I tried for several days but only got the machine despite leaving messages and telephone numbers. I then contacted the reception and told them of the lack of response but again was only put through to an answering service.

“I was lucky I had good people around me to see me through the pain but I wonder how people with no backup or no one to turn to feel? I don’t think it’s good enough. People who have suffered an unexpected bereavement need help after the initial shock.”

A second caller to the service said she was also left waiting two weeks.

“Even a message to let me know they were coming back to me would have been nice, waiting two weeks for a reply when I was under enough strain is not good enough! I won’t be going to them now or recommending them to anyone.”

In a reply to these concerns this paper had to wait over a week for a response.

A HSE statement outlined its services but gave no reason for the delay. It stated that the Donegal Bereavement Service offered a bereavement counselling service to those adults over the age of 18 years living in County Donegal who have complex grief issues or have suffered a traumatic loss; for example, those bereaved by suicide or other traumatic losses such as road traffic accidents, other accidents, homicide, cancer or traumatic illnesses, the death of a child or partner or other close relative, or those who have suffered a lot of losses over a short period of time. They also provide information and advice.

It continues: “At the time of the passing of a loved one, grief and confused emotions are the normal responses to loss in our lives. Sometimes when a person finds it difficult to come to terms with the death of a loved one, that person may benefit from talking things through in bereavement counselling.

“Referrals to our Service come from a wide variety of sources; for example, GPs, other HSE personnel, community workers, family, friends or work colleagues. Self referrals are also welcome from those who feel that they require support from our Service.

“Our Service is in Donegal Community Services, St. Conal’s, Letterkenny: (074) 9123695 and 074 91 23670. We also have an office in Sheil House, Ballyshannon: (087) 7987883. We do not offer a Helpline service. We aim to provide an accessible service for the public. We have a telephone answering service where a message can be left after office hours or during office hours when our counsellors are engaged with a client; or if our counsellors are on leave. Our counsellors will endeavour to return the call as soon as is practicable.”