Admitting children to adult psychiatric units ‘common’

Eight children were admitted to an adult psychiatric unit in Waterford despite multiple warnings to the HSE that the facility is unsuitable for youngsters.

Admitting children to adult psychiatric units ‘common’

Eight children were admitted to an adult psychiatric unit in Waterford despite multiple warnings to the HSE that the facility is unsuitable for youngsters.

The Mental Health Commission (MHC), which inspected the 44-bed unit at University Hospital Waterford in April, said in a new report that eight children were admitted in the nine months since the previous inspection in July 2018.

An examination of MHC reports going back to 2008 shows the HSE has been repeatedly told the unit is unsuitable for children. Susan Finnerty, inspector of mental health services, said admitting any child to an adult service should only occur in “exceptional circumstances”.

Dr Finnerty said children continue to be admitted to adult mental health centres “despite the absence of age-appropriate facilities and a programme of activities”.

John Farrelly, MHC chief executive, said the continued admission of children and adolescents to adult mental health units is “totally unacceptable, yet it is still a common feature of mental healthcare practice in Ireland”.

He said the shortage of operational beds in dedicated child units and the use instead of unsuitable adult facilities was “not the solution to the mental healthcare needs of children”.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on mental health James Browne called on Jim Daly, the junior minister with responsibility for mental health, “to explain why children are still being admitted to adult psychiatric units”.

Last week, the Oireachtas joint committee on children and youth affairs heard that 20% of all child admissions were to adult inpatient units in 2018. As of June 2019, there were almost 2,500 children on the waiting list for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, of whom 10% were waiting more than a year to be seen.

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