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Teenage care unit in a 'state of crisis' - HIQA

The special care unit in Cork has been heavily criticised in a report by the health watchdog published today.

Image: Photocall Ireland

A SPECIAL CARE unit for teenage girls in Cork has been found to be in a “state of crisis” by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) according to a report published today.

In a report published today, HIQA said the problems found in the Gleann Alainn Special Care Unit in Glanmire, Cork were “due primarily to the poor standard of management which impacted negatively on the delivery of a good standard of care to the children”.

Gleann Alainn was established in January 2007 to provide secure residential care for up to seven girls aged between 11 and 17-years-old who have been detained under High Court orders because they may pose a serious risk to themselves or others.

It has 22 full-time staff and one part-time temporary childcare leader as well as 10 agency staff and four relief staff. At the time of the report being carried out the seven children resident here were between 15 and 17-years-old.

Among the report’s critical findings were:

  • That six children were detained in the unit while one was living in open accommodation at the rear of the building while in the process of moving on to a community-based placement – an arrangement which was not consistent with the unit’s purpose.
  • A week prior to the inspection there was one incident where a child had taken a set of keys from a staff member and absconded along with a another child resident, a repeat of a similar incident in 2008. That it happened again is a matter “of serious concern to inspectors”, HIQA said.
  • There were 25 incidents in the year prior to the inspection where residents had absconded for as long as six days.
  • Staff were found at times to be not fully in control of the special care unit.
  • Some of the teenage girls expressed concern they did not always feel safe because of bullying and assaults by other residents.

The report also highlighted a lack of effective management which manifested itself in a number ways including periodic loses of control over the children’s behaviour, deficiencies in promptly notifying management of significant events and a lack of implementation of the unit’s policies and procedures.

HIQA has ordered the HSE to immediately address the management issues raised by its report including implementing the provision of safe and effective care and the reporting and recording of incidents.

The health watchdog said it will carry out a further inspection next month to ensure the recommendations are being implemented.

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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