Vulnerable inmates ‘no access to proper treatment’

VULNERABLE people with mental health problems in Mountjoy Prison are not getting access to full and proper treatment, the latest inspection report from the Mental Health Commission (MHC) has found.

The commission’s 2010 report, published yesterday, said the lack of services available to prisoners was concerning, particularly lack of access to a multidisciplinary clinical team which renders full treatment planning impossible.

It also highlighted that at times, the only resource available to safeguard vulnerable prisoners was to place them in safety observation cells, sometimes for a period of weeks.

Although the inspectorate did not inspect St Patrick’s Institution for young offenders, it recommended a child and adolescent team should provide services for young people detained there.

The report was one of almost 30 published yesterday which saw “incremental improvements in a good number of facilities,” according to head of the MHC Hugh Kane.

However, Mr Kane said there was still concern that many people still do not have proper care plans, required by law, or progressive and therapeutic services as envisaged under government policy.

The reports also highlights that in a number of units, including St Loman’s in Palmerstown, and St Senan’s in Wexford, services did not have a policy on the management of persons with an intellectual disability and mental illness, although they are dealing with such residents.

The moratorium on recruitment within the HSE is also flagged as an area of concern. For example, in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, the psychiatric unit reported to the inspectorate that 12 nurses left over the past year, mainly through retirement, and had not been replaced, putting a strain on the delivery of services.

St Joseph’s in Limerick received a particularly bad report.

There are 55 residents in the hospital which is set to close and is not accepting any more admissions. The report says all wards were in poor condition and should be “decommissioned as a matter of urgency”.

It says the prescription of benzodiazepines was “very high” despite the fact the majority of residents were elderly and an urgent review of medication should take place in all units.

Multidisciplinary care plans had not been introduced and there were very limited therapeutic services and programmes available, although staff were committed to providing a caring environment for residents, the report said.

St Stephen’s in Cork received a glowing report from the inspectorate which found “positive working relationships between the multidisciplinary staff and the residents of this service”.

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