Three mental health centres forced to close following Covid outbreaks

Vulnerable people who urgently require admission to a mental health centre may be at risk

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has called for plans to combat overcrowding in hospitals as a union tally showed over 200 patients a day had to wait for beds last month. Photograph: Getty Images

Vulnerable people who urgently require admission to an inpatient mental health centre may be at risk after centres were forced to close following Covid-19 outbreaks, the Mental Health Commission has warned.

Three centres have had to close in recent weeks after 55 virus cases were reported among residents and staff.

The closure of the these centres to new admissions may have left a number of people on a waiting list while alternative accommodation was sought, according to the commission.

Hospital Report

While accepting the closures were necessary, commission chief executive John Farrelly stressed that people who require involuntary detention were obviously very unwell and required urgent care and treatment.

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“When people are very unwell, and perhaps suicidal, we cannot afford any kind of delay before they start receiving treatment.”

There were 22 confirmed cases among residents and 61 among staff in mental health centres this week, compared to 23 and 58 respectively last week.

There have been 18 Covid-19 deaths in mental health centres, with the latest occurring in late September.

The deaths of a further eight patients with Covid-19 were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Friday. This brings to 1,940 the total number of deaths during the pandemic.

Nphet also reported a further 499 confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total number confirmed to 64,538.

Of the new cases 175 are in Dublin, 72 in Cork, 29 in Limerick, 26 in Mayo, 21 in Meath and the remaining 176 cases are spread across 19 other counties.

There were 292 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including 37 in intensive care, on Friday afternoon, with 24 peopled hospitalised in the previous 24 hours.

The 14-day incidence of the disease has fallen to 196.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Donegal has the highest county incidence at 299, followed by Meath at 280.4 and Cavan at 261.2. Dublin now ranks 10th for incidence at 201.1.

The county with the lowest incidence is Leitrim, at 31.2.

Among the 31 countries reporting to the European Centre for Disease Control, only Norway, Latvia, Finland and Estonia had lower incidences of Covid-19 on Friday.

Overcrowding

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation on Friday called for plans to combat overcrowding in hospitals as a union tally showed over 200 patients a day had to wait for beds last month.

The highest trolley figures were recorded in hospitals in Limerick, Cork, Mayo, Sligo and Mullingar.

“We were told at the beginning of this pandemic that there would be a zero tolerance policy toward overcrowding across the health service to ensure hospitals were safe,” said INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. “Unfortunately we’re now seeing an average of 200 patients per day without beds, and the figures are climbing.

“This is highly dangerous at the best of times, but this year we simply cannot afford to accept this level of risk for patients or for staff. We are over a month into the winter period and we’re seeing 4,500 patients per month on trolleys.

“We’re very concerned about how this will play out for the rest of the winter. We desperately need safe staffing levels across the entire service this winter if we want to keep staff and patients safe.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

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