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No mental health beds for children in 19 counties forcing them into adult units or waiting in A&Es

The matter needs to be addressed urgently, according to Fianna Fáil’s James Browne.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Joachim Heng

THERE ARE JUST 74 acute beds for children and adolescents across the country, with no beds at all available in at least 19 counties in Ireland.

The lack of beds in so many areas across the country means that children are ending up being admitted to adult wards or waiting for hours in emergency departments for treatment, according to Fianna Fáil’s mental health spokesperson James Browne.

In figures released to Browne by the HSE, it shows there are 74 beds for children and adolescent mental health inpatients – 20 in the area covering Galway, Roscommon and Mayo, 20 in the area covering Kerry and Cork, 34 for Dublin, Kildare and west Wicklow.

Last year, TheJournal.ie reported that of these 74 beds, only 50 of these beds were open “due to staff shortages”.

In the first six months of the year, 32 children have had to stay in adult mental health units

The HSE said it is “committed to age appropriate placement and to the minimisation of the number of admissions of children to adult units”.

However, it acknowledged that “in exceptional circumstances, it will continue to be necessary, where there is a clear clinical imperative, to admit a small number of children to adult units, for the shortest time possible”.

Browne said that it “seems extraordinary” to him that there are no beds for children and adolescents in the south-east, the mid-west, the midlands and the north-west. 

“Parents especially in rural areas will not want to send their children vast distances for care,” he said. “It’s a traumatic enough time for all and separation from local communities is unlikely to be conducive to a recovery process.

This is yet another example of the inadequate services currently being provided in child mental health services nationally. We already know that community mental health services are seriously understaffed with many parts of the country having barely half the required personnel in place.
There are significant waiting lists both for child and adolescent mental health services and for psychologist appointments in primary care.

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Sean Murray

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