Property crash stalls psychiatric unit reform
THE collapse of the property market is set to force hundreds of patients to continue to live in condemned Victorian psychiatric hospitals beyond the closure deadline promised by the Government, the Irish Independent has learned.
The fate of the institutions relies on revenue generated from the sale of properties no longer in use for mental health services.
However, the €50m return hoped for this year has plummeted to just €10m.
The money was due to be re-invested in building modern facilities for patients who are enduring sub-standard conditions in old hospitals, some of which were built in the 1800s.
Junior Health Minister John Moloney said another set of surplus mental health properties will go on the market next year, but conceded there was no guarantee they would fetch the €20m asking price.
He admitted the Government's deadline to have all the old psychiatric hospitals shut in two years' time may not now be met.
If the €20m is not realised next year, he said he would ask the cash-strapped Health Service Executive (HSE) to "loan" the money.
"More properties will go on the market next year, including Kelvin Grove in Carlow town; land at St Brigid's, Ardee; and a house at Eglington Rd in Dublin," he said
Earlier this year the Mental Health Commission singled out sections of St Brendan's Hospital in Grangegorman Dublin, St Senan's Hospital in Enniscorthy and St Ita's Hospital in Portrane, Dublin, which, it said, were not fit for human habitation.
It set out a timetable for sweeping changes to be made.
St Brendan's has already stopped admitting acute patients. Twelve people were recently moved to a new unit at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.
However, the hospital must continue to admit disturbed patients who need to be in a secure unit.
St Ita's said it hoped to meet the timeline to stop acute admissions to two of its units by February. However, the alternative facility -- a new acute unit in Beaumont Hospital - will not be open until April 2012.
Managers are now trying to secure proper accommodation for the patients.
Hospital management have also identified alternative accommodation for elderly patients who must be moved from two units in Portrane which were ordered to be closed next month.
St Senan's has been told it must stop acute admissions from February. It is not yet known where patients from it and St Ita's will be moved to.
The commission said it was continuing to work with both institutions toward finding a solution.