The president of the High Court, while emphasising that there must be “no shortcutting” of the human rights of wards of court, has approved a range of proposals aimed at reducing wards of court lists while the coronavirus crisis continues.
The steps, proposed by the HSE and the general solicitor for wards of court, include deferral of reviews of the situation of some wards, where those are not considered urgent.
Some wards who had been in hospital and were deemed fit for discharge were discharged last week to nursing homes, sometimes against their wishes.
Katherine Kelleher, solicitor for the HSE, told Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday that these are “very strange times”, that the HSE is facing an unprecedented situation, and she wanted to inquire how the court proposes to deal with wardship lists in the coming weeks.
The judge said he, or another judge, will be available every day to deal with urgent wardship matters.
Ms Kelleher said families of some wards who had resisted their discharge from acute hospitals because they were holding out for a place for the ward in a particular nursing home are, in light of the crisis, taking a “more pragmatic” approach and consenting to the nursing home placements they had previously opposed.
“Everyone sees how serious this is,” she said.
Patricia Hickey, general solicitor for wards of court, said she and Ms Kelleher will work together and with other solicitors representing wards with a view to ensuring steps are put in place to reduce hearings, minimise court attendances and free up medical personnel.
Yesterday, the judge dealt with five cases, involving less than 20 people in court.
One case involved a vulnerable 17-year-old girl with what Maireád McKenna, for the HSE, described as a chronic and disturbing history. She started in self-cutting when aged almost 14 and has been involved with mental health services for some years.
She has been in an adult psychiatric hospital ward since October and her treating psychiatrist said it is an “absolute priority” she be moved to a private specialised care facility. Her mother initially opposed that placement but is now consenting, Ms McKenna said.