Children in adult mental health facilities due to shortage of beds

University Hospital Limerick.

Children continue to be admitted to adult mental health units because of a shortage of beds in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

The latest batch of inspection reports from the Mental Health Commission show children were admitted to the acute psychiatric unit at University Hospital Limerick; the Centre for Mental Health Care & Recovery, at Bantry General Hospital; Lakeview Unit, Naas General Hospital, Co Kildare, and the Ashlin Centre in Dublin.

None of these facilities has age appropriate facilities and are “not suitable for children”.

The Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Waterford, and Drogheda Department of Psychiatry, also admitted children.

The HSE plans to address this area of non compliance with mental health regulations said that children are only admitted “in extreme emergencies” when there is no dedicated CAMHS bed available.

The Inspector of Mental Health Services, Susan Finnerty, expressed serious concern in relation to patient safety at the Lakeview Unit in Naas, due to overcrowding.

Dr Finnerty said that management had identified it as “a serious operational and health and safety risk” and plans had been submitted and funding sought for extra capacity.

The community healthcare area in which Lakeview is based has the lowest number of mental health in-patient beds in Ireland at 19.6 per 100,000.

“It is evident that the above situation is not safe for residents,” said Dr Finnerty. She also expressed concern in relation to the use of electroconvulsive therapy.

There was no evidence that a discussion about the treatment took place with one resident and where appropriate, next of kin.

The layout and furnishing of the Limerick unit were described as “not conducive to resident privacy and dignity”.

One resident interviewed complained about a lack of privacy as there was no lock on the main female toilet, which was sometimes also used by male residents. One room in the psychiatry of old age area was dirty and smelled strongly of sewage.

During the inspection, four residents were observed sleeping in the open reception area because bedrooms were locked during the day, “which was not conducive to resident privacy and dignity”.

The unit was described as “not in a good state of repair, internally and externally”.

The head of service said a review was under way of overall management structures and that it was possible responsibility might change significantly.

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