The missing link to mental health services
The Oak Garden in the new Phoenix Care Centre on the North Circular Road. photographs: brenda fitzsimons
Dr Margo Wrigley, executive clinical director, left, with Seán Tone, area director of nursing, and Carmel Kitching, mental health manager, in one of the bedrooms. The centre will replace Grangegorman after 200 years of operation. photographs: brenda fitzsimons
The foyer. photographs: brenda fitzsimons
The opening of the Phoenix Care Centre is a sign that the days of the ‘granite building on the hill’ are coming to an endYou make your way in through a light-filled foyer, down the underfloor-heated corridor and into what looks like a health spa.
In the distance is a landscaped courtyard surrounded by glass walls, egg pod-style chairs in bright primary colours and bedrooms with sturdy oak furniture. It might not look like it, but this is the State’s newest acute mental health facility.
The Phoenix Care Centre on Dublin’s North Circular Road formally opens its doors on Thursday, replacing the antiquated St Brendan’s Hospital in Grangegorman which has operated for the past 199 years. The remainder of the 75-acre site will be redeveloped as a campus for the Dublin Institute of Technology.
It’s quite a contrast. The €22 million, 54-bed care centre is equipped with en-suite bathrooms and has access to private gardens, with a roof-top terrace that looks out towards the Dublin mountains. It’s as if the service has jumped from the 19th century, straight into the 21st century, skipping over the 20th along the way.
Sense of space
“There were times when we never thought we’d see this day,” admits Dr Margo Wrigley, executive clinical director. “You can see the openness and the light. Everything here is designed around giving people a sense of space. The big thing is helping people get back home as soon as possible – and this will help with that process.”
Over the coming weeks the last remaining 30 patients from St Brendan’s will transfer into the new unit. It will be a daunting process for some, who have been resident in the institution for anything up to 20 or 30 years. To help ease the transition, medical staff have been giving patients tours of the new centre.
The reaction, they say, has been a mixture of enthusiasm and unease. Some are fearful of change and worry they won’t have access to a sprawling campus anymore; others are looking forward to having privacy and modern facilities.
The remainder of beds will be for those with the most severe forms of mental ill-health whose needs can’t be met in the community or in the local acute unit of a hospital. This intensive care service will treat people with severe illnesses – such as acute episodes of schizophrenia or the manic phase of bi-polar affective disorder – which require specialist intervention.
Typically, patients will stay between four and six weeks, before returning to their acute units or homes to complete their rehabilitation. The old days of long-term admissions, say staff, are largely over.