Psychiatric nurses have said there is “no capacity” in facilities in Cork and Galway to take children with severe mental illnesses who will be diverted away from a major Dublin unit now running at almost half capacity.
Mental health professional bodies and advocacy groups have expressed grave concern at the closure, until September at the earliest, of 11 of the 24 beds at the Linn Dara child and adolescent inpatient unit in west Dublin.
The partial shutdown at the unit, the busiest of the four approved centres, has arisen from a staffing crisis for psychiatric nurses.
The Government has said the three other inpatient units – in Galway, Cork, and north Dublin – and some private services would be utilised to help take children requiring the service.
But figures provided by the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) indicate that just 40 of the 50 registered beds in those three units are operational, including:
- 17 of the 20 beds in Merlin Park, Galway, due to a 30% shortage of nurses;
- 13 of the 16 beds in Eist Linn, Cork, also due to nursing shortages;
- 10 of the 12 beds in the HSE-funded St Joseph’s in north Dublin.
"The PNA sees no capacity or availability to replace the beds particularly given the emerging staff shortages in places like Galway and Cork,” said association general secretary Peter Hughes.
“Apart from that, it would be inappropriate moving service users and their families from the greater Dublin area to Cork or Galway."
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed that a number of beds in Merlin Park were “not in operation” but said this was due to a reconfiguration of two shared bedrooms into single rooms because of Covid and “nursing staff vacancies”.
During Priority Questions, he also confirmed St Joseph’s was down two beds, which he said was due to “staff vacancies and physical limitations of the unit”.
But, contrary to the PNA figures, he said the 16 beds at Eist Linn in Cork were “full operational”.
The Taoiseach told Deputy Joan Collins, who asked a question about Linn Dara, that all four Camhs units “will work collaboratively to maximise the use of national Camhs bed capacity” over the coming months.
He said Minister of State for Mental Health Mary Butler will work to “intensify efforts” to recruit the specialist skills.
Deputy Collins said that coming on the back of new figures showing a 40% increase in waiting lists to access CAMHS that HSE cutting beds was “completely incredible” and that this staffing problem “should have been well planned for”.
Mental Health Reform, the ISPCC, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, the Psychological Society of Ireland and Bodywhys (the eating disorders association) all told thethat they were seriously concerned at the bed closures.
The groups are particularly alarmed at the impact on children with severe mental illnesses and in need of specialist inpatient multi-disciplinary care.
HSE Your Mental Health Information Line 1800 111 888; Childline 1800 666 666; Bodywhys 01-2107906.