Mental health services urged to identify Covid-19 risks

There were 17 coronavirus related deaths of residents in mental health facilities

Mental health services across the State have been urged to show they can identify and manage risks related to the progression of Covid-19, the chief executive of the Mental Health Commission has said.

John Farrelly said there had been 17 Covid-19 related deaths among residents of mental health services since data started being compiled in early April, with the figure unchanged since May 19th.

The commission does not have figures showing the total number of cases in mental health services since the pandemic began, but 15 services had reported suspected or confirmed cases last week.

There were 11 suspected or confirmed cases relating to residents, four of which have been confirmed. There were a further 24 suspected or confirmed cases relating to staff, 10 of which were confirmed.

Mr Farrelly said that while the entire population is vulnerable to the virus, mental health service users staying in long-term residential units may be “particularly susceptible to developing Covid-19 because of pre-existing medical conditions and other factors”.

He said it is “critical” that providers of mental health facilities provide “the evidence of an ability to identify and manage risk”.

“Crucially, this enables action to halt – as much as is possible – any possible future progression of Covid-19 in their centre,” he said.

Inspection reports

Mr Farrelly was speaking following the publication of inspection reports on two mental health facilities – An Coillín in Co Mayo and Creagh Suite in Co Galway – which identified six moderate-risk non-compliance ratings. He said the evidence and compliance levels in both centres indicated "a clear capability" on behalf of the providers to protect their residents from the disease.

However, the two centres had overall compliance ratings of 87 per cent for this year, down from 97 per cent ratings last year.

An Coillín was found to be moderately non-compliant on regulations relating to staffing, administration of medicines, the use of physical restraint, and admission, transfer and discharge.

An inspection found moderate non-compliances at the Creagh Suite with regulations related to the use of mechanical restraint and staffing.

Dr Susan Finnerty, inspector of mental health services, said that staff training was an area the commission would continue to scrutinise in an effort to ensure that workers in all approved centres were supported to provide care and treatment in accordance with best practice.

“The inspection report for both centres noted that not all staff were trained in fire safety and the prevention and management of violence and aggression,” she said. “It is important that centres ensure that all staff are appropriately trained to deal with the needs of any patient in their care and to deal with any potential risks to their safety.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times