Psychiatric patients are ‘living in Dickensian conditions’

NURSES’ representatives at a Limerick psychiatric hospital claim patients are living in Dickensian accommodation while health board staff occupy plush offices.

Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) national chairman Liam McNamara said windows in St Teresa’s unit of St Joseph’s Hospital haven’t been washed in four years and that a floor had recently collapsed, while a huge investment had been made in new offices for health board staff.

“There are 38 elderly people in that unit and in all the time I worked there, which is four years, the windows were never washed. Prior to that, they were only washed on the outside.

“Local management has given a commitment to improve the situation but what has really highlighted the poor conditions in the wards is the contrast with newly refurbished offices on campus for health board staff,” Mr McNamara said.

He said the situation had improved in recent times, but only as a result of huge protests and mounting staff anger.

Patients in the unit are due for transferal to a €2.5 million modern nursing home on the Limerick border but the move has been delayed as staff try to get an improvement on the 3,000-plus transfer allowance on offer.

Earlier this year clinical director for Limerick Mental Health services Dr Peter Kirwan expressed fears that elderly and infirm patients would die in the former workhouse building, denied the chance to enjoy the new facility.

“The patients in question are elderly and therefore coming to the end of their lives. From both a humane and professional point of view their continuous care should be provided in the new setting which allows the delivery of care in the optimum clinical environment,” he said.

Failure to agree a compensation deal has delayed the move to the new facility for almost two years.

Pat Brosnan Acting Regional Manager, Mental Health Services in the Mid-Western Health Board, said a programme for refurbishment was underway at the hospital, including installation of new windows and recovering of floors in the 38-bed ward, due to be vacated when patients move out into the community.

According to a report in the Irish Medical Times, the Mid Western Health Board has blamed the delay in renovations on the action of nursing unions.

Concerns of both union and the health board will be aired in the Labour Court on July 10 in an attempt to resolve the row and facilitate the transfer.

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