Bid to avert closure of 11 beds at child mental health unit

Talks will take place today between the HSE and the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) in an effort to avert the closure of half the beds in the country’s newest inpatient unit for children with mental health disorders.

Linn Dara, a 22-bed unit in Cherry Orchard, Dublin, only open since December 2015, is due to close 11 beds by June 1 unless staffing issues can be resolved.

At the time of its opening, Anne O’Connor, national director, HSE Mental Health, said the unit would “enhance the provision of accessible and appropriate services for young people who are experiencing mental health difficulties and the families that support them”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was asked in the Dáil during the week to intervene to prevent the bed closures.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he had emails from parents of patients at Linn Dara “who are under enormous pressure”.

“Children who were admitted two weeks ago as being in emergency situations, at high risk and in need of emergency admission are now being discharged early,” he said.

The HSE issued a statement saying all discharges from Linn Dara “are clinical decisions and are planned discharges”.

“Nobody is being discharged in order to allow a bed to be closed,” the statement said. The bed closures are expected to last for up to three months.

Fianna Fáil’s mental health spokesman, Jim Browne, said while the Government’s mental health blueprint, Vision for Change, highlights the need for at least 100 beds for child and adolescent patients, the figure will reduce from 63 to 52 with the Linn Dara closures. Vision for Change is under review.

He said: “The HSE must clarify whether Linn Dara is currently operating over-budget as many suspect that this is the real reason for these bed closures.”

Mr Martin said there had “clearly been a lack of strategic planning” on the human resource side of mental health services for some time.

The HSE has invited the PNA to today’s talks at the behest of Helen McEntee, the mental health minister.

A spokesperson for the PNA said they will put forward “a number of proposals” in an effort to resolve the crisis. The spokesperson said just 17 out of 34 nursing posts at Linn Dara are currently filled. Staff are providing cover by doing additional hours, overtime and through use of agency staff.

More than 80 posts remain unfilled across community mental health services that cater for children and adolescents with severe mental health disorders. Earlier this week, children’s charity, Barnardos, said a survey of 242 parents found one quarter said their child had been waiting more than two years to be assessed by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and more than 35% have been waiting more than two years to receive treatment.

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