A 14-year-old boy with severe autism boy has been housed by the HSE in an unused block of an adult psychiatric hospital for more than a week while efforts are made to find a suitable placement.
The boy, who has significant behavioural issues, is in a shutdown ward at St Stephen’s Psychiatric Hospital, Sarsfield’s Court, Glanmire, Co Cork.
He is the only patient in the block. The HSE said the unit was occupied by services until recently — believed to be April.
A source told the Irish Examiner the child has been there since May 26 while efforts are made to place him and that the building is “totally unsuitable for a child with his needs”.
The HSE said they cannot comment on individual cases “in order to protect the privacy of individuals”.
However, a spokesperson said “in emergency circumstances, we work to establish the needs of the child and then to find a suitable placement”.
“This can take a number of weeks and interim arrangements may be made, with a child’s safety and wellbeing being paramount at all times.
“While interim arrangements are in place, we work towards securing the most appropriate placement for each child as quickly as possible, while working with all relevant agencies.”
Fianna Fáil health spokesman, Billy Kelleher, said he would call on Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone to investigate the circumstances in which a “vulnerable child ended up in wholly unsuitable accommodation”.
Mr Kelleher said it has been identified that the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) “has no capacity to deal with the difficulties that arise when there are complex family issues involved”.
CAMHS multidisciplinary teams, which include psychologists, occupational therapists and psychologists, in Cork are operating with fewer than half the staff members required. In addition, an out-of-hours emergency service at two of the city’s emergency departments has been suspended due to staff shortages.
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