Children still put in adult psych units

The controversial placing of children in adult psychiatric units is continuing around the country contrary to recommendations in the government blueprint for mental health, according to the latest reports from the Mental Health Commission.

The inspection reports, published yesterday, show that, in the case of one child admitted to the department of psychiatry at Waterford Regional Hospital, there was no evidence their parent or guardian had consented to the admission or to the child’s treatment.

Another child spent 13 days in the Joyce Rooms adult community unit in Fairview.

The only child and adolescent mental health unit to feature in these latest reports was condemned by inspectors as “unsuitable” as a child inpatient unit.

Linn Dara, an eight-bed unit on the campus of St Loman’s Hospital in Palmerstown, Dublin, was described as “dark and dreary with a ward-like environment”. Staff tried to brighten it with murals but inspectors said a complete renovation was required.

At the time of inspection, all doors in the unit, including toilets, recreation rooms, bedrooms, and children’s lockers, were locked, giving an impression of a secure facility. Inspectors heard this was for an on-going clinical reason. Children in the unit were aged 13-15. The unit is to be replaced, but not until 2015.

Inspectors said they were also concerned about the number of ligature points in the shower rooms and toilets, previously highlighted in a 2012 report. A ligature audit had been carried out but inspectors said it was inadequate and actions to be taken insufficient. One action suggested the children be accompanied by parents when taking a shower, another that the staff check verbally on the child every five to 10 minutes.

Inspectors said a more comprehensive assessment of ligature points needed to be carried out.

The placing of children with mental health issues in adult psychiatric units runs contrary to an agreement between the Health Service Executive and the MHC, which states that no child under 18 years is to be admitted to an adult unit in an approved centre from Dec 2011. The 2006 government blueprint for mental health services, A Vision for Change, also recommends children, under 18, be admitted to age appropriate inpatient facilities.

In 2012, 106 children under the age of 18 — almost a quarter of all child admissions — were placed in adult units.


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