Mentally ill woman sent home from Limerick Hospital

The Mental Health Crisis Liaison Service is based in the emergency department at UHL.

A MOYROSS woman with a history of severe mental illness was twice sent home from the mental health crisis service at University Hospital Limerick, only to be admitted by her psychiatrist the following day.

The woman’s family is now questioning whether the service is fit for purpose.

A family member, who contacted the Limerick Post about the issue, said he is “very angry” at the distress caused to him and the woman’s children after he brought her to the emergency department on June 19 in what he describes as a “very psychotic state” only to have her sent home.

“The next morning we brought her to her psychiatrist at Tevere Day Hospital and he admitted her to 5B immediately. He told us she should certainly have been admitted the previous night,” he said.

It was the second time in a year that she presented and was sent home, only to be admitted by her regular psychiatrist within 24 hours.

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The woman, who suffers with bipolar disorder, has been hospitalised for three to four months every year for more than a decade.

“This woman is extremely ill. She is bulimic because the drugs for her condition make her put on weight and when that happens – and it always does – she stops taking the medication and goes downhill rapidly,” he explained.

The man said that when she presented at the emergency department, she had stopped taking her anti-psychotic medication for three weeks and the crisis staff were informed of this.

“It’s a very traumatic experience for everyone. To be turned away when quite clearly she needed admission is soul destroying for all involved.”

The woman’s family are now seeking answers from the mental health crisis service.

“When her psychiatrist said she had to be admitted the following day, she discovered there was no bed immediately available for her but one was due to come free and when it did she was admitted.

“Was the lack of a bed the reason she was turned away the previous night? Surely there must be some arrangement when the unit is full? We believe the admission policies for 5B need to be urgently reviewed.”

The family have requested a meeting with a person from senior management and have been told one will be arranged.

A spokesperson for the HSE service said it “cannot comment on individual cases when to do so might reveal information in relation to identifiable individuals, breaching the ethical requirement on us to observe our duty of confidentiality.”

The spokesperson said that Unit 5B has a bed capacity of 42 and on the day the woman attended, June 19, there were 38 patients in the unit, meaning that had a clinical decision to admit her been made, “the issue of bed capacity was not a concern.”

In response to Limerick Post queries about procedures for mental health crisis patients if 5B is at bed capacity, the spokesman said “HSE Mid West Community Healthcare Mental Health Services is committed to ensuring best practice in relation to the admission of patients to the Acute Psychiatric Unit 5B.”

“If 5B has no available beds and an admission is required, the HSE will review all bed capacities within the service and decide on the best options for the patients optimum care, whether that could be transfer to other centres within the Mid West Mental Health Services.

“No patients are refused if admission is deemed appropriate by a Registered Medical practitioner in consultation with a Consultant Psychiatrist and following appropriate discussion with the relevant members of the multi-disciplinary team,” the spokesman added.