Children admitted to adult mental health units despite lack of facilities – report

Waterford centre was not clean, hygienic or ‘free from offensive odours’

Children continue to be admitted to adult mental health units despite a lack of age-appropriate facilities, according to the Mental Health Commission.

Eight children have been admitted to the psychiatry department of University Hospital Waterford over the past year, even though not all staff had been trained in the Children First policy and no programme of activities was available, an inspection report found.

Commenting on the report, Dr Susan Finnerty, inspector of mental health services, said children should only be admitted to an adult service "in exceptional circumstances".

The Waterford centre was not clean, hygienic or “free from offensive odours”, according to the report published on Monday.


“Two toilets were malodorous. Bins were overflowing in both the male and female communal toilets. Discarded cigarette butts were found in the sink of the ladies communal toilet. Thick cobwebs were observed on the skylight in Brandon Unit. Brown staining was observed in the assisted bathroom.”

The 44-bed unit was found to be non-compliant in seven areas: personal property and possessions, premises, staffing, use of CCTV, register of residents, use of physical restraint and admission of children.

Inspectors said residents’ health needs were not properly monitored, with “inadequate” examination and an “inadequate” assessment of their weight, blood pressure, etc.

Residents did not have access to appropriate emergency clothing, including underwear, and this was stored “in a disorganised manner”.

“There were many bags of clothing in the (electroconvulsive therapy recovery) room, some without labels. The staff nurse present did not know who owned the unlabelled bags of clothing or whether owners were presently admitted or discharged from the unit.”

The centre did not ensure two staff were in attendance at all times when searches were being conducted and at least one staff member was not the same gender as one resident who had been searched, according to the report.

A total of 12 high-risk ratings were identified in three reports on the Waterford unit, the acute psychiatric unit at Ennis Hospital, Co Clare and the Owenacurra centre at Midleton, Co Cork.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.