Policy of sending mentally ill patients abroad being reviewed
THE HSE is reviewing the practice of sending people abroad for mental health treatment following controversy over the closure of services here.
Its mental health division has said there are currently eight adults and 12 children being treated abroad as the specialised services they need are not available in Ireland.
However, in a letter to Independent senator Ronan Mullen, the HSE said it was currently reviewing the process of requesting and arranging treatment overseas.
The review will also focus on appropriate follow-up care for people being treated abroad when they return to Ireland.
The letter said the average cost of sending a patient abroad for mental health treatment is €13,000 per month.
The disclosure comes just months after the HSE and the Government were strongly criticised after a number of mental health units in Co Galway and Co Cork were earmarked for closure as part of a reconfiguration of services.
Mr Mullen described the situation as "a scandal", particularly following the closure of the 22-bed psychiatric unit at St Brigid's Hospital in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, which had cost €2.9m to refurbish.
Mr Mullen said he was "baffled" as to how it could be cost effective to pay millions of euro to health care providers in other countries while at the same time closing "newly-refurbished state -of-the-art facilities at home".
He said there was also a human cost associated with sending patients far away from their families.
Earlier this week, figures provided to the Irish Independent by the Child and Family Agency showed there were 12 children with behavioural problems at facilities abroad.
It said the average cost of out-of-state care for these children was €5,769 per week.
A 13ths child expected to be sent to a facility in Northampton, England in the coming days.
Plans are being advanced to spend over €20m, doubling from 17 to 34 the number of special care places available for deeply troubled children by 2016.