Residents’ money used by mental health centre ‘without permission’, report finds

Mental Health Commission imposes ‘critical risk’ rating on Co Galway facility for non-compliance of rules

Money that was supposedly being safeguarded by a mental health centre in Co Galway was in fact being borrowed by the facility to “fill a deficit in other residents’ monies without permission from the residents”, an inspection report from the Mental Health Commission (MHC) has found.

The MHC imposed a “critical risk” rating for non-compliances of rules and regulations on the mental health facility Woodview, located on the campus of Merlin Park University Hospital in Galway.

The service, which had a bed capacity for 15 people at the time of inspection, provides continuing mental healthcare to an ageing cohort, most of whom have been there for a number of years.

The centre’s overall compliance disimproved from 97 per cent in 2021 to 71 per cent in 2022.

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Under law, every centre has a duty to ensure that provision is made for the safekeeping of all personal property and possessions, and to ensure that a record is maintained and is available to the resident in accordance with the approved centre’s written policy.

John Farrelly, chief executive of the MHC, said some residents at the centre were unaware their money was being used for other purposes and this was “a clear and serious breach of the regulation on personal property and possessions”.

“It is unacceptable to take advantage of residents in this way; it is a clear denial of a basic human right,” he said.

“For this non-compliance, we had no choice but to impose a critical risk rating. Since the inspection, we have been assured by the centre that the money has been returned and improved arrangements are now in place to safeguard residents’ property.

“However, we will continue to require assurances from the centre in this regard.”

Following the finding, the MHC asked the Health Service Executive to take specific actions and provide assurances that residents’ property and possessions were safe and that there were appropriate oversight and review mechanisms in place to monitor the finances of all residents in the centre.

“The MHC has since been provided with assurances that improved arrangements are now in place, which include arrangements for notifying An Garda Síochána, as appropriate, should any future concerns be identified,” it said on Thursday.

A separate inspection of Deer Lodge, a residential mental health recovery unit in Killarney, Co Kerry, found three high-risk non-compliances.

Ten individual care plans were reviewed by the inspection team, and they found that two such plans had not been developed by the multidisciplinary team.

The centre also received high-risk non-compliances for the regulations on staffing, and on therapeutic services and programmes.

“In relation to the latter, it was deemed by both the inspectors and staff that the residents were not receiving the care to facilitate optimal levels of physical and psychosocial functioning as there was no occupational therapist and associated therapeutic programme in operation,” the MHC said.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times