Mental hospital running ‘at capacity’

THE Central Mental Hospital is continuously operating at capacity. This is leading to people being detained in prison or in mental health hospitals inappropriately, the head of the Mental Health Commission has warned.

Hugh Kane said the situation with the hospital was ongoing, and to date no new location for a modern forensic hospital had been identified.

The mental health inspectorate’s report, published last month, says it is “most unsatisfactory” that there appears to be little prospect of providing modern forensic in-patient accommodation soon. A new central mental hospital was set to be developed at a new prison site Thornton Hall. But last year it was withdrawn.

Earlier this month, Minister for Health Mary Harney told the Dáil the question of the relocation of the Central Mental Hospital to an alternative site was “under consideration and remains a priority for the Government”.

The Irish Examiner is aware of at least one patient, who needs high-security forensic care, inappropriately placed in St John of God’s hospital. And Mr Kane also highlighted the fact that people were going to, or remaining in, prison inappropriately. It is understood the resident has been at St John of God’s for about a year as there is no room at the Central Mental Hospital where there are 93 beds.

Last June, the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, Dublin, closed to admissions due to a serious staff shortage and the most recent inspectors’ report for the CMH states there are 18 nursing posts, an occupational therapy post and two psychology posts vacant.

The Central Mental Hospital was built in 1850. According to inspectors the entire hospital is unsuitable for providing in-patient forensic services by reason of its age and design.

“The condition of the building was very poor. There appeared to be a continuous battle to keep the fabric of the current building intact and allow the building to be habitable.

“However, the presence of dirt and malodorous smells in unit 4 was not excused by the poor condition of the building,” the report states.

“Budgetary cutbacks had impacted on the frequency of cleaning and this was having an impact on the quality of residents’ accommodation. There were no minor or major capital budgets for 2009, therefore no renovations or refurbishments could take place.”

But “dedicated” staff are highlighted at the service. “The multidisciplinary and unit staff appeared to provide a high standard of care and treatment. There was evidence of comprehensive collaboration on the management teams, across all the disciplines and with residents and carers.

“There was strong evidence of active service user input into the drawing up of policies, care planning and issues such as catering, provision of recreational activities and other areas of management and the residents’ forum was strongly supported by the residents and staff,” the report read.

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