Closure of Killarney unit raises fears for mental healthcare
CONCERN HAS been expressed about the closure yesterday of the last remaining ward in St Finan’s Hospital in Killarney, a 19th-century psychiatric facility that once housed 1,000 patients.
The last seven residential patients were transferred to a separate unit on the hospital grounds to await a more modern facility.
The move from the Victorian-era building was welcomed by the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association yesterday. However, the union strongly criticised the lack of infrastructure for mental healthcare in Kerry.
The closure of the old hospital was due to cutbacks rather than the needs of mental health in Kerry, branch organiser Cormac Williams said. The county did not have a single community mental health team in place, he said.
“While the closure of the Victorian building is long overdue, the most regrettable aspect of the closure is that the final demise of the Victorian hospital was caused by cutbacks, retirements and the recession rather that any meaningful movement to a comprehensive community-based mental health service in line with the 2006 report A Vision for Change.”
One of the State’s oldest psychiatric institutions, St Finan’s opened in 1852.
Dominating the Co Kerry town from the north, the large Gothic-style limestone building was designed by the eminent architect James Franklin Fuller, whose other buildings include Ashford Castle in Cong, Co Mayo, and the Parknasilla Great Southern Hotel in Sneem, Co Kerry.
By the 1930s St Finan’s was accommodating 1,000 patients, had its own farm and craft centre, and was one of Killarney’s main employers.
Over the past decade there have been moves to acquire the imposing building as administrative headquarters for the county and town councils in south Kerry or for a third-level catering college to link with the town’s large hotel and catering industry.
The HSE yesterday said the question of the disposal of the building did not arise until a modern 40-bed unit was built. Funding had been provided for this.
A day unit and the out-of-hours GP service also operated from the old building, it said.