Several months ago the hospital informed HSE management that it had 25 nursing vacancies through staff leaving or retiring, but because of an embargo on all public service recruitment they could not be replaced. Since February, it wrote on several occasions to HSE assistant national director Hugh Kane telling him of the emerging crisis, but to no avail.
On May 28, senior management at the hospital concluded that given the present level of activity at the hospital it could not operate with that level of vacancies. It wrote to Mr Kane telling him that from June 15 it will close for admissions and will ultimately reduce bed capacity by 16 beds.
It told him that senior officials within the HSE must write to the departments of health and justice, the prison service and the Attorney General telling them of the move and that the hospital will no longer be able to meet its obligations under the Mental Health Act 2001 or the Criminal Law Insanity Act 2006.
“If beds do close and as a unique tertiary service we no longer admit seriously ill patients from the judicial and health system, we fully anticipate extensive legal challenges that will be brought against the HSE,” the hospital said.
SIPTU’s national nursing officer Louise O’Reilly said: “There are already legal precedents to suggest that the Central Mental Hospital will have no option but to accept patients found not guilty by reason of insanity in criminal cases. This begs the question of how they and other patients are to be treated and cared for if there are inadequate staffing levels.”
Last night the HSE said it was having to manage staffing “within the context of the overall government moratorium on recruitment in the public service”.
“No decision has been made in relation to bed closures in the CMH at this time,” the HSE said.