A child attending South Kerry CAMHS asked the doctor who blew the whistle on the care given to children if he was going to die as a result of his overmedication.
The father of Jason O’Connell said his son was prescribed Risperidone while under the care of South Kerry CAMHS.
Jason subsequently begged his father Maurice to be taken off the drug after he reported feeling sick and saying, “my mind isn’t right”.
Mr O’Connell said Jason began the drug but after three to four months, “we noticed that he was getting nightmares and his personality changed completely. He lost his smile and his bubbliness,” Mr O’Connell said on RTÉ’s Prime Time.
Mr O’Connell brought Jason to a consultant to be assessed due to the effects of the drug and the consultant told him the side effects he was experiencing were “normal”.
“The consultant said: ‘that’s normal and we will keep him on it because as far as I can see, he’s doing okay’.
“I told him he wasn’t doing well and wasn’t sleeping so he was prescribed an over-the-counter sedative - melatonin.
“His personality and his eating were out of control. I could give him dinner at 4pm and he’d be hungry half an hour later.
“Jason asked me to take him off the medication. He said: ‘please Dad, will you take me off it. My mind isn’t right and I feel sick every time I take it’,” Mr O’Connell said.
Mr O’Connell said he later received a phone call from a doctor asking him to attend a meeting on a Saturday, which he thought very strange.
“He looked at Jason’s file and then said: “your son has been overmedicated’.
"I was in shock, and it took all my strength not to do anything because I was fuming. I was holding the chair and Jason turned to the doctor and asked him: ‘Am I going to die now?’. The doctor told him we would not die, and he’ll be okay,” Mr O’Connell said.
Dr Ankur Sharma, locum consultant psychiatrist, had raised concerns he had around the alleged inappropriate prescription of multiple medications to young mental health patients over a four-year period by a junior doctor at the South Kerry service. Dr Sharma alleged the junior doctor diagnosed children with ADHD without doing proper assessments.
He raised these concerns almost immediately after joining South Kerry CAMHS in September 2020, by which stage the non-consultant hospital doctor his concerns lay with, Dr David Kromer (43), had just left the service.
Dr Kromer has insisted he always acted in the best interests of patients but has stopped working and expects an investigation by the Medical Council.
A review into the quality of treatment at South Kerry CAMHS, on the back of Dr Sharma’s concerns, found that there were “no catastrophic” effects on children, which has left Mr O’Connell “fuming”.
“I’m absolutely fuming, and I was fuming at the report. The report said there were no catastrophic effects on the children. Maybe the children haven’t lost arms or legs but their mental health and what they have been through; that’s catastrophic enough for us.
“I’d invite the doctors that wrote the report to spend one week with the families that have been affected by this and you’ll see how catastrophic this has been for our children”.
Jason is doing much better now, Mr O’Connell said, despite still suffering bouts of anxiety, depression and trying to catch up on two or three years of missed education.