Children placed in adult mental health unit

Two children in urgent need of in-patient psychiatric care were admitted to the adult service at Cork’s Mercy University Hospital because there were no beds available in the child and adolescent mental health services.

The placing of the children at St Michael’s Unit at MUH was criticised by the Inspector of Mental Health Services who said the unit was “unsuitable for the admission of children” in his latest inspection report, published yesterday.

Even though the inspector recommended last year that the HSE address the lack of beds in the service, he said the problem remained for children with mental illness.

The inspector did not find fault with the children’s care while in MUH. In fact, the care pathway provided at St Michael’s was described as “excellent” and staff were commended “for their innovation and flexibility”.

Each resident had an individual care plan. However, the layout of the unit was criticised. The inspector said it had “been designed to a general hospital layout template and this was not ideal for mental health care as most accommodation was in dormitory format”.

Significantly, there was no direct access to direct access to fresh air or a garden area.

This was in direct contrast to the experience of patients at St Stephen’s Hospital in Glanmire, Cork, which was described as “spacious” and “set in pleasant surroundings”. Ironically, the HSE is currently considering plans to transfer patients with acute mental illness from St Stephen’s to St Michael’s, a city centre locked ward.

The Psychiatric Nurses’ Association has questioned the wisdom of this potential move given the much smaller space at MUH.

St Stephen’s was the only one out of 10 facilities inspected that was fully compliant with all the applicable mental health regulations.

The inspector said the physical care of residents was very good and each resident had an individual care plan and programme of therapeutic activities. Moreover the “pleasant surroundings and spacious premises added to the quality of life for the residents”.

At St Michael’s, staff reported that the unit often ran at full capacity. When this was the case, persons requiring admission had to be diverted elsewhere, including to Carraig Mór, to the psychiatric intensive care unit, which inspectors said “was not necessarily an ideal environment for a first time admission”.

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