Half beds at children’s mental health unit to close due to nurse shortage

11 of the 22 beds in the Linn Dara mental health facility in Dublin to close on Friday

Minister of State for Mental Health Helen McEntee said she intends to visit the Linn Dara psychiatric unit herself in the near future. File photograph: Alan Betson

Minister of State for Mental Health Helen McEntee said she intends to visit the Linn Dara psychiatric unit herself in the near future. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

A children’s mental health facility in Dublin is to close half of its beds due to a shortage of nursing staff.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed it will be closing 11 beds in the 22 bed Linn Dara mental health centre from Friday.

The centre is based beside the Cherry Orchard Hospital, in Ballyfermot, Dublin 10.

The inpatient facility, which opened in late 2015, deals with children and teenagers with mental health problems and psychiatric disorders.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said “due to difficulties in recruiting qualified nursing staff, the HSE has made the decision to temporarily reduce the inpatient capacity” at the Linn Dara unit.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) said the reduction in beds will lead to “more children being inappropriately admitted to adult mental health units”. Peter Hughes, general secretary of the PNA said the closure of half of the inpatient ward “is totally unacceptable” and “a disservice to the children of this country”.

The child and adolescent inpatient unit will operate at half capacity for at least three months, with the HSE saying it hopes to reopen the closed 11 beds again in September. “The clinical team at Linn Dara will be working closely with families over the next number of weeks to support them during this process” a spokeswoman for the HSE said.

Speaking to The Irish Times Minister of State for Mental Health Helen McEntee said she has been “in regular and close contact with the HSE in relation to the difficulties providing adequate staffing in the Linn Dara unit”.

“The HSE have informed me that the core issue facing Linn Dara at present relates specifically to staff recruitment difficulties for mental health professionals. This unfortunately reflects wider health system recruitment and retention issues” Ms McEntee said.

She said she was assured the HSE is “exploring every option” to try keep the service fully operational. “At present the unit is reliant on providing cover through staff working additional hours, overtime, and agency staff” she said.

There is a current shortage of specialist child and young adolescent mental health consultants and psychiatric nurses across the health service, according to Ms McEntee.

Mr Hughes said he has “expressed the PNA’s dismay to Minister McEntee at this proposed closure of a vital service”. He said there was a crisis of recruitment and retention of psychiatric nurses in the health service as a result of poor HSE planning and a failure to address the issue of pay and conditions for nurses.

The government’s Vision for Change mental health strategy, published in 2006, outlined Ireland would need 100 inpatient mental health beds for child and adolescents to meet patient demand. The temporary closure of 11 beds at the Linn Dara facility will bring the national number of psychiatric beds for children and teenagers down from 63 to 52.

Ms McEntee said she intends to visit the Linn Dara psychiatric unit herself in the near future, and stated she wanted “to encourage more people to come to work in our modern, high quality mental health facilities”.