Child spent three weeks in adult psych unit

A child in need of in-patient psychiatric care was placed in an adult unit for three weeks even though there was an empty bed in a nearby child and adolescent unit — because staff were unaware of the vacancy.

The youngster was placed in the 46-bed South Lee Mental Health Unit in Cork University Hospital (CUH) where there were no procedures in place for education, contrary to statutory regulations.

The controversial placing of children in adult psychiatric units is continuing, according to the findings of a number of reports published yesterday by the Inspector of Mental Health Services. This is despite the fact the practice has been repeatedly condemned by mental health and childcare experts. The reports also show that:

- Six children were admitted to the adult acute mental health unit in Kerry General Hospital in the first six months of 2014. Inspectors described the centre as “unsuitable for the admission of children.”

- Three children were resident in the acute psychiatric unit at the Mid West Regional Hospital in Ennis in the first six months of 2014.

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said it was unacceptable that vulnerable children were inappropriately housed within the mental health services. “The idea that you would put kids at risk into adult units is unacceptable, especially when a vacancy exists in the child services,” Mr Kelleher said.

He said there needed to be “stronger communication between the relevant agencies” to ensure children are appropriately cared for.

The mental health inspectors also levelled criticism at questionable practices in other units, including Cappahard Lodge in Co Clare, where residents in need of speech and language therapy and physiotherapy were forced to pay. This was despite the fact that they had been referred to the public service by GPs.

The inspectors were highly critical of this lack of access saying “there appeared to be an inequity of service provision afforded to mental health patients”.

“It is unacceptable that a public service will not accept a referral for a speech and language therapy assessment or a physiotherapy assessment simply because the persons referred are patients of a mental health service,” inspectors said.

Lack of supervision of male patients at the South Lee unit was also condemned. Inspectors said the layout of the unit was such “that male residents upstairs were unsupervised”.

At the time of inspection, five male residents were in the upstairs bedroom area, without an attendant nurse. One of them had been admitted the night before and was asleep in a single room, with the door closed.

A second resident was also in bed, having been admitted six days previously following an episode of self-harm. A number of ligature anchor points in this area were pointed out to staff by inspectors. Although each bed was provided with a call bell and alarm bell, these were out of operation. It was deemed that a risk management policy was not appropriately implemented in the unit.

At Cappahard Lodge, two patient deaths had not been notified to the Mental Health Commission within the required 48-hour period. One took five days and the other nine.


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