Saturday 17 March 2018

Dilapidated, depressing and not fit for human habitation: welcome to St Senan’s

Watchdog paints a damning picture of psychiatric facilities

St Senan's Hospital in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, has been criticised by the Mental Health Commission
St Senan's Hospital in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, has been criticised by the Mental Health Commission

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THE plight of patients forced to live in dilapidated, depressing Victorian psychiatric facilities which are not fit for human habitation, is exposed in a series of reports.

Despite decades of promises, the inspector of mental health services has found patients surrounded by peeling paint or placed in seclusion, sometimes for months, in rooms which are grim and dark.

One of the worst offenders continues to be St Senan's Hospital in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, where patients with a mental illness or intellectual disability live in dormitory-style rooms in a building not fit for purpose.

Wards are cramped and residents have no privacy, an inspection report has found.

When the inspector from the Mental Health Commission visited in April, two residents had been in seclusion since January in a dark room with an offensive odour.

An inspection of the psychiatric service in Mountjoy jail found no full team of specialists available to prisoners who were mentally ill, with men facing average waiting times of 17 days to be sent to the Central Mental Hospital.

The inspector expressed concern that "at times the only resource available to the prison mental health service to safeguard vulnerable prisoners was to place them in safety observation cells, sometimes for weeks".

The decision was taken by nursing staff without the necessity for a medical review after four hours. The inspector was impressed with improvements in Cloverhill prison.

In St Brigid's Hospital, Ardee, Co Louth, healthcare assistants could not be employed because of the recruitment embargo.


Nine of the 19 residents in its St Ita's ward did not have appropriate physical examinations completed for more than six months. The hospital's seclusion room was old and unsuitable although it was promised a new facility would open soon.

In St Camillus's Hospital, in Limerick, a number of elderly residents aged 67 to 90 years were left with little stimulation during the day with little space on one of its wards.

The inspector also discovered that due to "operational difficulties", including lack of staff, patients who came from the emergency departments had to be placed in the psychiatric unit .

The ongoing scandal of residents being forced to live in sub-standard conditions looks set to continue, as €50m, which it was hoped would be generated from the sale of old buildings and lands, has failed to materialise due to the property slump.

There had been a promise that this money would be ringfenced to modernise mental health services and move people from the worst hospitals. However, the plan has only realised a fraction of that money.

Hugh Kane, chief executive of the Mental Health Commission said yesterday other reports were also due to be published. He said, following instructions last year, there would be no new admissions to St Senan's Hospital from March.

Deadlines for the closure or refurbishment of wards in St Ita's Hospital would also be met with a delay of some weeks, he added.

"There are some places where patients should not placed and we will continue, as the watchdog, to highlight them and set deadlines for change in a planned and structured way," he added.

He pointed out that St Patrick's Hospital, in Dublin, a private facility, got full marks.

"Yet it is the oldest of the psychiatric buildings so really there is no excuse for poor conditions no matter how long the hospital has been there," he added.

Psychiatric units: verdicts from the inspectors

St Senan's Hospital, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

"Inside was dilapidated, depressing and not fit for human habitation. Residents are cared for in wards that were cramped, run-down and afford no privacy. Paint peeling from most walls."

Mountjoy jail psychiatric service

"Prisoners placed in safety observation cells, sometimes for periods of weeks . . . no medical review after four hours . . . should only be placed in safety observation cells as a last resort."

St Camillus's Hospital, Limerick

"Residents had very little to occupy themselves during the day and there continued to be a lack of space at Curragour ward. Placing medical patients in psychiatric units due to staff shortages must stop immediately."

St Brigid's Hospital, Ardee, Co Louth

"The seclusion room was old and unsuitable for modern purposes."

Irish Independent

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