Man stabbed in psychiatric unit
Elderly patient fights for life as nurses warn of need for more secure facilities
A MAN in his 70s is fighting for his life in an intensive care unit after he was stabbed by another psychiatric patient in one of the country's best- known hospitals.
The incident occurred on Tuesday in the St Loman's psychiatric unit in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin after one of the patients brandished a knife.
He stabbed another patient in the back in an unprovoked attack, leaving his victim seriously ill. The victim was immediately rushed to the intensive care unit of the hospital. It is understood he is being treated for deep knife wounds.
A spokeswoman for the Health Service Executive (HSE) last night confirmed a "serious incident" took place in the unit in Tallaght.
She said the HSE was co-operating fully with a garda investigation and would be conducting its own probe into the incident.
It is understood the assailant -- a voluntary patient who could come and go as he wished -- brought the knife in from outside the unit.
A review of security at the facility is now expected to get under way.
Des Kavanagh, head of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, said the St Loman's unit had suffered from understaffing in the two days since the stabbing.
"We accept that risk is part of the job and that the service must be run in as least restrictive a way as possible," he said. "However, there need to be safeguards in place to protect other patients and staff." He said a patient who had violently attacked another patient or member of staff in a unit should be moved to a secure unit.
But there is a shortage of these facilities and there are now plans to close one of these units in St Brendan's Hospital in Dublin.
Irish psychiatric units are now having to cope with similar problems to those encountered in other such facilities across Europe where patients who have been admitted are smuggling in illicit drugs, Mr Kavanagh said. "You have occasions where patients are abusing privileges. We have had problems with both drugs and alcohol," he warned.
"It is not fair on patients who may feel they are having to live in a threatening environment. In the old days these units were more controlled and we accept we now live in a modern society. But we don't have enough secure facilities and I have told the HSE the secure unit in St Brendan's should not be closed," he added.
"The potential for violent incidents also increases if psychiatric units are understaffed and the public service moratorium is exacerbating this."
Psychiatrists have already complained that they are frequently working in health centres where they are seeing psychiatric patients with little security back-up.
This latest incident is yet another setback for Tallaght Hospital, which is at the centre of an inquiry over the failure to have up to 50,000 X-rays checked by radiologists.