Woman in overcrowded Central Mental Hospital forced to sleep in interview room

Mental Health Commission also finds several shortcomings at children’s unit in Galway

Inspectors also found “little improvement” in the Central Mental Hospital’s compliance with regulations since 2017 - dropping from 79 per cent compliance last year to 69 per cent this year. File Photograph:  Dara Mac Donaill

Inspectors also found “little improvement” in the Central Mental Hospital’s compliance with regulations since 2017 - dropping from 79 per cent compliance last year to 69 per cent this year. File Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

A female patient in the Central Mental Hospital was having to sleep in an interview room because of a lack of bedrooms, inspectors have revealed.

In its latest report, the Mental Health Commission also criticises the hospital for having made “little improvement” in adhering to regulations over the last three years.

None of the buildings at the mainly Victorian campus - which is supposed to be vacated next year once a replacement is built in Portrane, north Dublin - are fit for purpose, the watchdog said.

Of the nine separate units, only one is for women, with a capacity of ten patients.

High, medium and low security risk patients are kept together in the same unit which is neither best practice nor the same model for male patients, it found.

During an unannounced inspection in April this year, there were 11 female patients.

“One was sleeping in an interview room,” the report said.

Inspectors also found “little improvement” in the hospital’s compliance with regulations since 2017 - dropping from 79 per cent compliance last year to 69 per cent this year.

The watchdog found five “high risk” areas of non-compliance in the hospital, including the areas of clothing, searches, privacy, premises and staffing.

It “was not kept in a good state of repair externally and internally”, maintenance was carried out on “an as-needed basis” while toilets in one unit smelled bad due to recurring blockages.

Nails protruding

There was deeply ingrained dirt on the flooring of bathrooms in another unit.

Hazards included slippery floors, hard and sharp edges while nails were protruding from a rotting wooden picnic table in the garden.

The watchdog also raised concerns about a lack of records over the searching of patients, including whether patients gave consent or knew what was happening to them.

Staff shortages meant recreation activities were cancelled “on a regular basis”.

In a separate inspection, the mental health services watchdog also warned of several “high risk” shortcomings in the running of a children’s unit at Merlin Park University Hospital, Galway.

The unit “was not clean, hygienic, and free from offensive odours”, outside was “not clean”, the kitchen floor was “stained and appeared to be dirty”and “food safety was not maintained.”

Inspectors also complained about the suitability of a seclusion room for children with mental health problems at the hospital, as it was “compromising their privacy and dignity.”

Children in the room did not have access to adequate toilet and washing facilities and its hard floor fitting “posed a risk” to their safety.

“Seclusion facilities were not furnished, maintained, and cleaned to ensure respect for resident dignity and privacy,” the report found.

It also said the room was “uncomfortably warm” and it took up to two days for maintenance staff to adjust the temperature after being contacted.

John Farrelly, chief executive of the Mental Health Commission, said the seclusion of children at any stage “is an extremely serious issue”.

“If this occurs, rooms must be safe, clean and well ventilated to ensure the dignity and safety of the child,” he added.