The HSE has spent nearly a quarter of a million euro in rent on a building that still remains unoccupied it has been revealed.
Figures obtained by Fianna Fáil spokesperson on mental health James Browne show that a sum total of €225,000 has been paid over in rent on Arden House in the Whitemill Industrial Estate, a building that was earmarked to be the new home of child psychiatric services in south Wexford back in 2017.
Numerous delays followed and while the process of moving staff and services across from Slaney House on the Newtown Road, a building slammed as being utterly unfit for purpose by healthcare professionals, was due to be complete by the end of 2019, this has once again delayed until 'Q1 of 2020'.
While works were reported to be at 'snagging phase' with the installation of IT systems taking place towards the end of 2019, the latest update from the HSE is 'extensive minor capital works are nearing completion, after which a phased movement from Slaney House will commence in quarter 1, 2020.'
As if the constant delays to the move were not bad enough, the rent bill on Arden House continues to rise and Deputy James Browne is calling for immediate answers.
'I'm calling on the HSE to explain the reason why almost a quarter of a million euro has been spent on rent for a facility that is not open,' he said.
'It's terribly disappointing to see a building lying vacant while its rent has reached that figure. For almost two and a half years, the Government has been making promises to open the new centre and yet it remains closed.'
Deputy Browne added that the existing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) facilities at Slaney House remain a 'serious obstacle' in attracting a replacement child psychiatric consultant to Wexford; a position that has remained vacant since Dr Kieran Moore resigned some 18 months ago.
While it had been announced in the build-up to the by-election back in November that the HSE were 'close' to appointing a new child psychiatric consultant and the role had been offered to a suitable candidate, the HSE has now confirmed that following consideration, this candidate has opted not to take up the role.
'The HSE have, as yet, been unsuccessful in securing a consultant psychiatrist for South Wexford CAMHS,' Minister for Health Simon Harris said in a letter responding to queries from Wexford County Council.
'Every possible option is being pursued in order to recruit a paediatric consultant psychiatrist to the area. There is a shortage of CAMHS consultants nationally. Advertisements have been placed in journals, both nationally and internationally, to fill the posts on a temporary basis pending filling these on a permanent basis through the Public Appointment Service.'
'In addition to current resources within this area, consultants external to Waterford/Wexford are providing weekend clinics for emergency referrals. On weekdays, CAMHS teams continue to work within existing case-loads and have access to consultation with CAMHS consultant psychiatrist by teleconference.'
Currently, a psychiatrist travels from Galway to provide this weekend cover in south Wexford, however, there is a major shortfall within CAMHS staff and there have been several documented cases where children have been admitted to adult psychiatric services in Waterford because there was simply nobody else to see them.
On one occasion towards the end of last year, a distressed Wexford teenager spent 40 hours waiting on chairs at A&E in University Hospital Waterford, having been told that not only were there no CAMHS beds, but there wasn't even space in the adult psychiatric ward.
With child psychiatrists being in such demand and having their pick of jobs, it is unlikely that they would settle for the deplorable conditions at Slaney House laid bare by Dr Kieran Moore before he resigned from the role back in 2018.
While assurances were given to Dr Moore regarding Arden House back then, the building has remained vacant since then, accruing a large rent bill, and delays on the move have continued into another calendar year.