Some 91 children were admitted to adult psychiatric wards last year according to the Opposition, who accused the Government of failing to protect the rights of young people with mental health issues.
However, the Tánaiste, Joan Burton, told the Dáil that Ireland has developed “world-class standards” for mental health services.
Her comments came as a report by the Inspector of Mental Health Services, released yesterday, shows 18 children were admitted to the Department of Psychiatry in Connolly Hospital between January 2013 and February 2014.
The inspectors said the centre “had been obliged to admit acutely ill children on numerous occasions because no bed was available in a child and adolescent approved centre”.
The report said the Department of Psychiatry “was not a suitable environment for a child nor could it deliver optimal care and treatment”.
This placing of children with mental health difficulties in inappropriate centres was taking place at a time when “a number of beds in child and adolescent mental health units were still not fully operational”, said inspectors.
One child was resident in the hospital at the time of inspection last February.
Clinical staff told inspectors four children had been admitted since January 2014. However, just two child admissions had been notified to the Mental Health Commission.
While the inspectors acknowledged that the hospital “strove to provide interim care and treatment to the child” while awaiting appropriate placement, it was “not suitable for the admission of children either in environment or in therapies available”.
Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman, Billy Kelleher, urged the Government to restore cuts to the mental health budget next Tuesday. The Programme for Government pledged to ring-fence €35m a year for services but this was cut to €20m last year.
The minister with responsibility for mental health services, Kathleen Lynch, said she secured a guarantee that this would be reinstated this year.
Mr Kelleher told the Dáil that the campaign group Save our Sons and Daughters is concerned that children are now at a higher risk because of extra pressures and reduced resources.
“Families throughout our country are under huge pressure because of unemployment, homelessness, pressures in general society, cyber-bullying, drug addiction, and many other problems,” Mr Kelleher said during Leaders’ Questions.
“Children are at a higher risk of suicide and are becoming more vulnerable because there is a serious lack of experts employed, and there is only a handful of adolescent beds in our hospitals.”
There are only 48 beds available to young children who suffer from mental health issues and 91 were admitted to adult service.
“It is a very serious position to be in, that in 2014, two years after the children’s referendum, adolescents with psychiatric problems who may have self-harmed or attempted suicide are still being admitted to adult units, which is wholly inappropriate,” said the Cork North-Central TD.
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