Friday 17 August 2018

A third of children's mental health beds shut

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A third of beds for children and teens with mental health problems are closed due to staff shortages.

There are 74 beds in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) across four units in Co Cork, Co Galway and Co Dublin, and just under a third (24) of these are closed.

The HSE said only 50 of the beds are open due to "staff shortages", but it is expected capacity at the four units will increase in September with an intake of graduate nurses and the appointment of two consultant psychiatrists.

In a response to a parliamentary question submitted by Sinn Féin's Louise O'Reilly, the HSE pointed to increased capacity that is planned for CAMHS.

However, the first tranche of additional beds will not come on stream until 2020 with the opening of 10 beds at St Ita's in Portrane, north Co Dublin.

The new National Children's Hospital will also have an additional 20 beds in 2022.

Ms O'Reilly said: "Nowhere is the recruitment and retention crisis in the health service having a more devastating impact than in the area of CAMHS.

"We need to see dedicated action in the area of mental health to attract new staff, to keep the excellent staff we have, to reopen closed beds, and to reduce waiting times. This is quite literally lifesaving treatment and it is currently not readily available for those that need it."

Separate information provided to Ms O'Reilly shows waiting times for an appointment with the Jigsaw services, the State's only mental health services that focuses on young people, can be as long as 13 weeks.

The service has a target of four weeks but a snapshot of waiting times in July showed a wait time of 13 weeks in Tallaght. In Co Cork and Co Meath the waiting time was 10 weeks. Co Kerry had the lowest waiting time at one week.

Irish Independent

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