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Deputy O’Brien challenges Tánaiste on lack of mental healthcare provision

24 May, 2013 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin Cork North Central TD Jonathan O’Brien has said that the crisis in the delivery of mental healthcare care provision is having a profound impact on some of the State’s most vulnerable citizens with young people particularly badly affected.

He made his comments during Thursday’s Leaders’ Questions in Dáil when he challenged the Tánaiste on the government’s failure to address this issue.

“A recent report by the Inspector of Mental Health Services,” he continued, “found that children and teenagers needing psychiatric care are being denied admission to mental health facilities while beds remain empty as a result of staff shortages in several dedicated child and adolescent units.

“In Cork for example, only 12 of the 20 beds in the Éist Linn child and adolescent in-patient unit in Cork were operational in March because there were insufficient multidisciplinary staff to provide for a 20-bed unit. A similar situation existed at the adolescent in-patient unit at St Vincent’s Hospital, Fairview, Dublin, where only six of 12 beds were available to patients.

“In December, mental health inspectors expressed serious concerns over the welfare of a vulnerable mentally ill child who was had been admitted into an adult psychiatric facility in Cork

“They described an appalling situation where the patient in questions was left isolated in a bedroom that had no therapeutic interventions apart from medication, despite official guidance that such admissions are inexcusable and counter-therapeutic.

“In recent weeks, I have experienced first-hand a case that illustrates the extent of the crisis in mental healthcare provision.

“The mother of a young woman contacted my offices after being unable to get care for her daughter, who has a history of mental illness, had been found making threats to harm her school friends.

“After visiting their GP they were referred to the Emergency room of the Mercy Hospital Cork where they endured a three day wait before their daughter was finally admitted to the hospital’s adult unit.

“Last year, this young girl spent two and a half months in the children's unit after waiting 5 weeks for a bed. For the past 15 months she has been under the care of 6 different psychiatrists and has never got a chance to build up a relationship with any of her primary carers.

“Under State’s on code of practice, drawn up by the Mental Health Commission, no child under 18 years should be placed in adult facilities yet despite this, as this example shows, adolescents with mental health problems are being denied proper care.

“This unacceptable situation is happening at a time when suicide rates amongst young people living in this State are amongst the highest in Europe and the welfare of vulnerable mentally ill children, who are being denied access to specialised care or being referred to adult psychiatric facility facilities is being badly compromised.”

The current lack of provision for seriously ill, vulnerable children is, as the Inspector of Mental Services states “unacceptable.”

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