Serious concern over mentally ill child admitted to adult unit in Cork


Mental health inspectors have expressed serious concern over the welfare of a vulnerable mentally ill child who was was admitted into an adult psychiatric facility in Cork earlier this year.

Inspectors said the child was isolated in a bedroom and had no therapeutic interventions apart from medication, despite official guidance that such admissions are inexcusable and counter-therapeutic.

“The lack of provision of a place in the local child and adolescent in-patient unit for a seriously ill, vulnerable child currently a resident in St Michael’s unit was unacceptable,” a report by the Inspector of Mental Health Services states, on foot of an inspection last July.

No bed

The service told inspectors that they were not able to source a bed in the local child and adolescent in-patient unit.

“ was unsuitable for admission of the child and staff were becoming increasingly frustrated in trying to obtain a place for the child in Éist Linn. It was the opinion of the inspectors that placement of the child in St Michael’s unit was counter-therapeutic.”

Under a code drawn up by the State’s mental health watchdog, the Mental Health Commission, no child under 18 years should be placed in adult facilities.

Despite this, there were 132 admissions of children into adult psychiatric units last year.

The number of children admitted into adult mental health units remains stubbornly high, though it has been declining in recent years as more child and adolescent units become available.

The inspectors who visited St Mary’s were told the waiting time for a bed in a more suitable child and adolescent service was likely to be several weeks.

“The child was vulnerable to behaviours from other mentally ill residents in the unit. Therefore the child required one-to-one nursing, which was deemed not to be in the best interests of this child,” the report adds.

Strenuous efforts

Inspectors said there were strenuous efforts by nursing and medical staff at the hospital to get a more suitable arrangement, to no avail.

More generally, inspectors said there was evidence of excellent recovery-orientated care for adult residents at the hospital. They found each resident had an individual care plan and a wide range of therapeutic services and programmes available to them.

“Staff impressed as being enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The provision of dedicated family support was excellent. The assessment and admission process was of a high standard,” the report found.

In other inspection reports released by the Mental Health Commission yesterday, there was criticism over some conditions at St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

While inspectors highlighted improvements and initiatives carried out in the past year, it said one ward – St Dympna’s – not not suitable for acute admissions. There were 18 residents in the ward on the day of inspection. It said the building, which dates from the 1930s, featured ligature points in a number of areas, while there was a “complete lack of storage space for both clinical equipment and residents’ personal property and possessions”.