Children admitted to adult psychiatric ward in Limerick

University Hospital Limerick

THE operation of the acute psychiatric unit in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has been severely criticised by healthcare watchdogs for admitting children to the adult facility.

And the Mental Health Commission report states that the children were admitted without giving them access to child advocacy service or making provision to ensure their rights were explained and their voices heard.

Inspectors also found five high-risk areas of non-compliance when they visited the 42-bed ward last November last year and raised concerns over individual care plans, general health, premises, staffing and risk management.

The report states that five children had been admitted since a previous inspection in 2017.

“Age-appropriate facilities and a programme of activities were not provided, documentation did not support that provisions were in place to ensure that the child’s view was heard, children did not have access to child advocacy services and clinical files did not record that children had their rights explained,” the report says.

Inspector of Mental Health Services, Dr Susan Finnerty, said that admitting any child to an adult service should only occur in exceptional circumstances.

There was no evidence that patients were consulted about updates and reviews to their personal care plans, according to the report.

Inspectors also found the psychiatric ward at UHL to be in a poor state of repair, with cracked glass on one door, damaged flooring,  poor ventilation and unfinished paintwork.

In a statement to the Limerick Post, a HSE spokesman said “there was significant improvement in compliance with regulations, rules and codes of practice since 2016, when compliance was 42 per cent.

In 2018, compliance had risen to 71 per cent. The Inspector of Mental Health Services further acknowledged that three compliances with regulations were rated as excellent”.

“While it is acknowledged that the inspection report found five high-risk ratings, this is a reduction from the eight high-risk ratings found in 2016 and the seven found in 2017.

“The inspector of Mental Health Services also noted that ‘considerable efforts had been made to ensure the service was compliant with all regulations’.

“On each of the five occasions when it was necessary to admit a child to Unit 5B, the child was aged 17 years. Each child was accommodated in a single en-suite bedroom and a Registered Psychiatric Nurse was assigned to the specific care of the child on a 24-hour basis for the duration of their admission.”

The children stayed in the adult unit for between two and nine days, and were also under the supervision of CAMH’s and staff worked closely with the family,” the HSE statement added.