FOUR TEENAGERS, INCLUDING a 14-year-old, were placed in an adult psychiatric unit in Waterford over the past few days despite this being against recommended practice. A spokesperson from the HSE South told RTE’s Morning Ireland that “it’s not ideal and I fully acknowledge that”.
There is no dedicated unit anywhere in the southeast for teenagers suffering from severe psychiatric problems and the Psychiatric Nurses Association said that at least two children a week had been placed in the psychiatric unit at Waterford Regional Hospital in recent weeks.
She defended the current situation in Waterford, saying:
This is an exceptional circumstance.
Up until December of this year, it is not against contraventions to have child of 17 in an adult psychiatric unit but children aged 16 or under are not meant to be placed there except in “exceptional circumstances”.
RTE News reported that due to staff shortages in the psychiatric unit in Waterford at one point there was one nurse caring for 30 patients. A hospital security guard was appointed to look after the 14-year-old child in the unit at the time.The four teenagers, who were admitted on Sunday and Monday to the unit, were kept in rooms away from adults and with their own en-suite bathroom.
The HSE spokesperson said that a new regional unit dedicated to children and teens with mental health issues would shortly be in operation at Bessborough in Cork. Thirty staff members are being appointed to the unit and it will join the eight-bed child and adolescent psychiatric in-patient unit at St Stephen’s Hospital in Cork.