The mother of a teenage girl who has acute behavioural difficulties is at her wits end, having spent 115 days in limbo at Wexford General Hospital waiting for funding to be made available for her to get a bed at an appropriate residential care centre.
The mother, who wishes not to be identified to protect her daughter's anonymity, says that, for the third time, they have been offered a bed in an appropriate care centre for her daughter, but they've been told by the HSE that no regional or national funding is available for her to take up her place and begin treatment.
The mother, referred to as Nicola for the purpose of this piece, says that problems first started with her 15 year-old daughter around eight and a half years ago.
'At first it was seen as a mental health issues and it was directed that she should go to CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services),' Nicola explained. 'I believed it was more of a disability problem. I could show you two foolscap pages of diagnoses that we've had over the year. They range from autism and behavioural issues to ADHD, ODD, PTSD and even an intellectual disability.'
At the height of the problems, Nicola, who has three other children, one of whom is also special needs, was living in fear over what would happen next.
'In the last two and a half or three years, things have gotten much worse,' she said. 'She'd overdose or self-harm. We'd be in and out of casualty all the time. If we were out or had visitors and she happened to see some pills in someone's handbag, she'd take them, not even knowing what they were. It got to the stage where we had to tell visitors to leave their handbags in the car. If she couldn't get her hands on anything else, she'd smash her head against the wall.'
'She required 24 hour care before we came in (to Wexford General) and after a while they couldn't control her in school. There were two SNAs appointed to her and she'd manage to run off and we'd have to get the gardaí out looking for her. They were very good to us. At one point they even tried to section her so we could get her the help that she needs, but she's not psychotic. It's just her anxiety levels are through the roof.'
Having previously been in and out of hospital and with things getting no better, Nicola made the difficult decision that her daughter would have to remain in hospital until she received the help she needed in the form of a bed in a residential care unit. That was 115 days ago. The offers of two beds have come and gone. Another one is currently on the table, however, Nicola has unceremoniously been told that her daughter will not be taking it up as the funding is not currently available to pay for it.
In the meantime, she is forced to stay with her daughter and is effectively living in the hospital room beside her. She only makes it home to see her other three children, who are staying with her parents, for a 'couple of hours' each week.
Nicola estimates that between disability funding, mental health funding and, the lion's share, hospital funding, it's costing somewhere in the region of €40,000 to €45,000 per month to keep her daughter at Wexford General. She has to be kept in a private room for her own safety and the safety of fellow patients and this is also a room that is desperately needed by others. Nicola says that for an extra €8,000, her daughter could be moved into the bed in an appropriate care centre and could even be back out within six months. As things stand, she has been told to prepare for the fact that she and her daughter could spend upwards of 300 days in Wexford General.
'I just don't understand it,' she said. 'It's a busy season here at the hospital at the moment too and they desperately need beds. Yet, we're left sitting her until Simon Harris decides that money is available. He's told us, however, that this definitely won't be until the end of January at the very earliest. We've been offered a bed at Nua Healthcare in Kildare, but we've been told to forget about it as the funding is not there. We've more or less been told that if we want the treatment, we'll have to wait for it.'
'This is taking a year from my daughter's life,' the heartbroken mother said. 'The longer this goes on, the less services that will be available to her as she approaches adulthood. At this stage, I don't know if she'll be alive long enough to get the help she needs. She'll end up killing herself or someone else.'
Nicola, incidentally, was full of praise for the staff at Wexford General Hospital, who she says have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help her daughter in any way they can.
'The staff are amazing,' she said. 'It's like a family up here. They do great work with her. They come in and do things like yoga and play cards with her. All things that just help pass the day for her. They go above and beyond the call of duty. Unfortunately, she's missing out on her education while she's here too. We're doing our best for her, but there's only so much you can do. She also suffers with anxiety attachment issues, so she gets anxious when I'm away. This places massive strain on us because my other three are living with my parents. They're very good and they look after each other, but ultimately, they're missing their mummy too.'
Cllr George Lawlor said that, along with Labour Leader Brendan Howlin, he has been lobbying behind the scenes with the HSE on this case and, so far, they have been greeted with a complete lack of willingness to engage.
'It makes absolutely no sense to have this young lady in surroundings that are completely unsuitable for her,' he said.
'As well as that, from a secondary point of view, it makes no financial sense when you look at the cost of keeping her at Wexford General. The focused treatment that this young girl requires is absolutely essential if she is going to progress. Keeping her where she is is doing the hospital no favours, and it's certainly doing her and her family no favours.'
'We've been lobbying on this for a couple of weeks,' he continued.
'We've been finding the HSE extremely difficult to deal with and to get through to. This is something that is having an absolutely dire effect on this young girl and her family.'
A spokesperson for the HSE was unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.