Care staff told to flush loos after ‘toxic’ odours reported

Staff have been told to “flush the toilets” in a new state-of-the-art residential mental health facility after complaining of strong smells of sewage type gases.

The “toxic” odours were detected shortly before Christmas in the €13m Deer Lodge residential facility on the northern edge of Killarney, a nurses union has told HSE management.

Deer Lodge opened during the summer but has already been the subject of remedial works because higher than acceptable levels of radon gas were detected there.

The Psychiatric Nurses Union (PNA) wrote to the head of the Cork-Kerry mental health services in Cork-Kerry to complain of “strong smell of sewage-type gasses” detected in parts of the building.

PNA representative, Cormac Williams, said he was in Deer Lodge before Christmas “and the smell in the western end of the main corridor was toxic” with air smelling thick with sewage-type gasses.

“I had to move quickly out of the area between Lake View and Wood View [different wings in the facility] as the smell was overpowering,” he told Sinead Glennon, head of mental health services.

Staff had reported to him directly that the smell was prevalent in other areas but not as strong as in the corridor area.

“All staff I have spoken to believe the smell is of methane sewage gas escaping up from the sewage system,” said Mr Williams.

The PNA now want staff and residents moved out of Deer Lodge for a three-month period to allow the building be assessed for radon and for other gas issues.

However, a statement from Cork-Kerry Community Healthcare said the building is modern and well-planned and the concerns had been raised about a “slight odour”, which it has agreed to monitor: “Members of staff have raised concerns about a slight odour in an area of Deer Lodge, and on foot of this we will carry out monitoring of the air quality inside the building.”

It said it has agreed to carry out monitoring “because the health and welfare of residents and staff is always our main priority”.

The spokeswoman said: “While we don’t want to pre-empt the findings of any monitoring, we would like to point out that issues like this can be caused by something as simple as some toilets or sinks not being used frequently.

"For this reason, staff are now ensuring that any toilets or sinks which are less frequently used are flushed or have water pass through.”

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