Judge criticises hospital's new admissions policy

 

The admissions procedure at the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) favours office administration rather than the welfare of patients, according to a Cork judge.

Judge Con O'Leary told Cork District Court yesterday he was "staggered" at a decision by the hospital's management to change the admissions process over the Christmas period.

"It seems to me that admissions procedures are taking priority over the clinical needs of people. My view is that is wrong," he said.

Dr Damien Moran of the CMH was responding to claims yesterday that it took the hospital almost two weeks to respond to a request for treatment for a suicidal teenage prisoner.

The youth, who is charged with raping his 18-year-old girlfriend, tried to end his life over Christmas while in custody at Cork Prison.

Dr Moran said the request to have the youth transferred to the CMH coincided with a change in the hospital's admissions process.

Under the new procedure patients have to be assessed by a doctor at the hospital before being granted admission.

Previously, prisoners had been transferred to the hospital at the request of a prison psychologist.

Dr Moran said there was no bed available for the prisoner over the holiday period. He said Cork Prison authorities had been told an assessment of the patient would be made after Christmas.

Dr Moran acknowledged that the new procedure had not been explained to the governor of Cork Prison, which ultimately led to the mix-up.

However, he said that in the long run the new admissions process would streamline the system.

"We are prioritising urgency according to clinical need. This is a finite resource. We have to prioritise," he said.

Judge O'Leary said the governor of the prison should have been given reasonable notice of the changes in procedure at the mental hospital.

Meanwhile, the 17-year-old prisoner was due to be assessed by Dr Moran yesterday afternoon with a view to transferring him to the hospital. He was remanded in custody by Judge O'Leary to appear at Cork District Court on January 15th.

Dr Moran added that Cork urgently needed its own forensic psychiatry service. It is "completely unacceptable" not to have a regional service in cities such as Cork and Limerick, he said.