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State 'failing young patients' over lack of psychiatric beds


Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch. Photo: Tom Burke

Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch. Photo: Tom Burke

Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch. Photo: Tom Burke

BEDS in special psychiatric units for children and adolescents are lying idle while many young patients are still languishing in inappropriate adult hospitals.

The ongoing scandal of placing children in adult hospitals was condemned by delegates at the annual meeting of the Psychiatric Nurses' Association (PNA) yesterday.

General secretary Des Kavanagh said there should be 100 inpatient beds for children and adolescents. "I have heard Minister of State Kathleen Lynch wax lyrical about what has been done and what is going to be done in this area.

"However, we can only find 66 beds in the country and only 53 of those are operational. The truth is the service is failing children and there is no real evidence of commitment to delivering on the 100 beds promised," he told the conference in Carlow.

Mr Kavanagh pointed out that 76 such children and adolescents ended up in adult hospitals last year and "this is 76 too many".

He also called for the HSE to provide figures on the number of adult and child patients who die by suicide after being discharged early or refused a bed.

"At present we have a situation where there is no system for identifying the number of persons who are denied admission to acute units or discharged prematurely and later complete suicide. In one service, Carlow, Kilkenny South Tipperary we have identified 14 people who have completed suicides in 18 months.

"Three were while in-patients, six had been recently discharged and the remainder who had some contact or involvement with our services."

He said he had now written to Ms Lynch asking for information on records which are available on adverse effects "following premature discharge or failure to admit to mental health services".

The meeting was also told about the lack of units across the country for patients who have difficulty managing behaviour due to psychotic illness. In many cases they are placed in a regular acute unit and can end up beating other patients and staff.

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"While there are new secure units in Grangegorman campus in Dublin and Carrickmore in Cork, huge areas of the country have no facilities," he said.

"There is no unit for the west, south east, midlands or north east," he added.

Stephen Mulvaney, head of mental health services in the HSE, said at the end of this year there will be 66 special beds for children and adolescents.

"Next year, it will increase to 74. The remaining increases to 80 and 104 will occur when the new forensic unit at St Ita's Hospital, the new Central Mental Hospital, opens and the children's hospital opens.

"There will be significant progress in terms of the investment in beds," he added.

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