A VIOLENT and disturbed mental health patient has been under 24-hour guard at Ennis General Hospital at a cost of €1,000 a day for more than two years.
Two security personnel have been employed by day and by night to manage the man, in his late 30s, at the acute psychiatric unit since July 2008 because the HSE cannot find a suitable alternative.
The man, who was the victim of an assault in 1999 when he suffered a serious brain trauma after a concrete block was dropped on his head, requires 24-hour security.
He has been in the unit since July 2008 at an annual cost of about €380,000. This means by the end of this year, the cost of looking after the man could reach almost €1 million.
The HSE confirmed security is provided at the acute unit in Ennis, but refused to comment further.
Des Kavanagh, general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, said the man was being accommodated in the observation area of the unit, which is supposed to be used as a behavioural observation area for other patients. He said the man was so violent, aggressive and threatening that he had to have secure care.
The lack of a regional secure unit in the west, and secure units around the country generally, is being blamed for an increase in the use of security personnel at great cost to the mental health services.
“There are no secure beds in Limerick, Clare, Galway, Mayo or Roscommon. There are a few in Sligo and they are trying to close them,” he said.
Patients with such high needs should be facilitated in special care or proposed intensive care rehabilitation units (ICRU).
According to Vision for Change, the Government’s plan to modernise the mental health services, each of the four HSE regions should have a 30-bed intensive unit – with two sub-units of 15 beds each, staffed with multi-disciplinary teams with appropriate training.
The Psychiatric Nurses Association, as well as ICRUs, believe that as part of continuing rehabilitation there is a need for high-support community residences.
The lack of these units means people are being inadequately placed in general hospital settings.
Another case involves a serial rapist, who is being detained at St Ita’s hospital in Portrane, where he is secured by guards on a 24-hour basis while awaiting transfer to the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum.
Mental health campaigner John McCarthy, founder of Mad Pride Ireland, said there was a real need for early intervention facilities for people with mental health problems and their families. He said there is no assistance in the wider community for people who could feel themselves going into crisis mode.
Mr McCarthy said if these services were available, there would be a lot less people in psychiatric units around the country.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved