The practice of sending people with serious mental illness 50km away from their homes for inpatient treatment has been criticised by the head of the Mental Health Commission (MHC).
An inspection report into the Lakeview Unit of Naas General Hospital, Co Kildare, found that its 29-bed capacity was insufficient for demand and that some patients were being transferred to another unit in Portlaoise.
MHC chief executive John Farrelly said anyone who requires treatment at an inpatient facility must be treated as close to home as possible.
“When people are acutely ill and undergoing treatment, ideally they should remain within their locality,” he said.
“Maintaining close linkages with friends, family and their community during their illness contributes to a reduction in stigmatisation of patients in their community and helps with recovery. Being treated far away from home is challenging for both staff and patients.”
The report on Lakeview was one of two published on Thursday, alongside St Catherine’s Ward at St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork.
While compliance at Lakeview had increased from 64 per cent in 2019 to 83 per cent last year, it was found to be unsuitable “for the care and treatment of people with a mental illness”.
Among the findings were insufficient space for residents to move about, insufficient access to personal space and the lack of an appropriately-sized communal room.
St Catherine’s Ward in Cork had increased its regulatory compliance from 62 per cent in 2019 to 72 per cent last year, however, it was rated “high risk non-compliant” in areas relating to privacy; the ordering, prescribing, storing and administration of medicines; and staffing among others.
Residents were unable to sleep or rest in their own rooms during the day and some had no curtains. The centre also lacked sufficient dietetic and speech and language therapy staff, the report noted.