Lack of beds forcing Wexford children into adult psychiatric units

Parents describe ‘living hell’ due to insufficient mental health services in county

The Mental Health Commission published a report in 2018, that found children continue to be admitted to adult mental health facilities deemed inappropriate to their needs. Photograph: iStock

The Mental Health Commission published a report in 2018, that found children continue to be admitted to adult mental health facilities deemed inappropriate to their needs. Photograph: iStock

 

Children with severe mental health problems are being admitted to adult psychiatric wards, due to a lack of age-appropriate facilities.

Concerned parents in Co Wexford say they are in a “living hell”, with one doctor resigning in protest, as the county’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) continue to deplete.

A single father, whose 16-year-old son first attempted suicide at 14, says his child is being denied essential treatment.

At one point he was forced to travel more than 200km to Cork to try to have him assessed.

“The suicide attempt was terrifying, a scary experience. He’s bipolar and was hearing voices telling him to harm himself,” the father said.

“We were actually waiting for an emergency CAMHS appointment to see a psychiatrist and it was in that time he tried to hang himself.

“He was taken to Wexford General Hospital for five weeks as the county has no children’s CAMHS beds.

“When he was admitted, we were told it could be 13 weeks before a CAMHS bed became available elsewhere, and while in Wexford General, he tried to hurt himself again.

“Wexford General is not set up to treat children with mental health problems, so he was transferred to St John of God in Dublin.”

The man has three other children, who he was forced to leave with family members when he made the more than 90-minute journey almost daily to see his son at St John of God psychiatric hospital, where he was admitted for five weeks.

In some cases, children from Wexford are also sent to the Department of Psychiatry at University Hospital Waterford, which is an adult mental health facility, and cannot provide age-appropriate care.

There has been no full-time psychiatrist in Wexford since Dr Kieran Moore’s resignation in July, and the county is now serviced by a doctor who conducts emergency appointments, travelling from Galway two days a week.

Deteriorated

Separately, a widow, says her 16-year-old son’s condition has severely deteriorated after being kept in an adult facility.

“I had been trying for a number of years to get help for him, and he was brought to the adult psychiatric ward in Waterford twice,” she said.

“We had full-time carers, but he had an outburst, he tried to stab me and tried to cut his own wrists, so the carers left due to safety concerns.

“He was assessed, and when the doctor said he had to go back to hospital, He was handcuffed and taken in a van to Waterford hospital against his will. He was kept there for a month over Christmas.

“It took him hitting rock bottom before anyone would take any notice. He went through hell in Waterford.”

The Mental Health Commission published a report in 2018, that found children continue to be admitted to adult mental health facilities deemed inappropriate to their needs.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “There are widely acknowledged difficulties in recruiting and retaining specialist CAMHS staff, particularly consultant psychiatrists.

“Recruitment efforts continue, including local and international advertising.

“A CAMHS consultant post has recently been filled in north Wexford and there is currently one post vacant in south Wexford.”

A rally calling for more beds for children in Wexford has been organised for May 4th. – PA