After a specialist Consultant Psychiatrist left in March, the Southern Health Trust said the inpatient memory services in the Gillis Unit will be suspended in May and transferred temporarily to the Willows Ward at Craigavon.
Jan Mc Gall, Southern Trust Director of Mental Health explained why The Trust took this interim contingency decision to relocate services: “This is a patient safety issue as we are no longer able to sustain the provision of inpatient memory assessment and treatment on the Gillis site.
“The specialist Consultant Psychiatrist who had been working in Gillis left post at the end of March and we have taken this difficult decision to ensure the safety of very vulnerable dementia patients. Of course, we recognise the disruption caused to Gillis patients and their families and we apologise for any distress caused.
“There is a regional shortage of Consultants in Psychiatry of Old Age across NI. Recruitment is ongoing, but previous campaigns have been unsuccessful and we are aware of the severe lack of Consultants in Psychiatry of Old Age at present in the region. This contingency decision to temporarily relocate will allow the multi-disciplinary team to access on-site medical input and support, until we are able to provide dedicated Consultant Psychiatry of Old Age input to this vulnerable patient group.”
A Trust spokesperson said: “Currently, there are 13 patients in Gillis and temporary medical cover is in-place to provide care for these patients. Trust staff are working closely with patients and their families to ensure that patients receive safe and effective care and will continue to support in the transfer to Willows Ward.”
Jan also paid tribute to staff who had worked in Gillis saying: “I really want to thank the dedicated Gillis staff, who have provided an excellent service to many patients and their families over many years. No staff will lose their jobs as a result of this temporary change and we will continue to support our staff as they care for our patients in the Willows Ward.”
Gillis opened in 2010 as a stand-alone dementia inpatient assessment and treatment unit on the St Luke’s hospital site in Armagh.
In 2014, Trust Board approved proposals for the relocation of dementia in-patient services from the Gillis Unit, Armagh to a new build at Craigavon Area Hospital. However, the build did not proceed and Gillis remained open.
A formal project structure will be established to develop longer-term proposals for public consultation on Psychiatry of Old Age (POA) and Memory Services across the Southern Trust.