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Teenager spent 14 days in adult psychiatric ward room 'barely bigger than the bed'

The case was brought to the attention of the Minister for Mental Health and the Taoiseach’s office.

Image: Shutterstock/Tammada

A TEENAGER SPENT at least two weeks in an adult psychiatric ward in a room barely bigger than their bed, according to a letter sent to An Taoiseach’s office.

A HSE staff member said that the child had been sent to the adult psychiatric ward in the Department of Psychiatry of Waterford Regional Hospital for “fourteen nights and fourteen days”.

The staff member, consultant paediatric psychiatrist Kieran Moore, said that the patient’s room was “barely bigger than his/her bed” and that they have been “specialised 24-hours a day by a nurse who is sitting on a chair in the room or at the doorway”.

The letter, released to TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), continues:

The patient has no access to education. He/she has not been outside the hospital grounds for 14 days, there is no therapy occurring, no occupational therapy, no psychological intervention, no speech and language therapy, and no peer support or therapy.

Moore told TheJournal.ie that this wasn’t the first such case at the psychiatric ward.

“There’s no clinical governance structure in terms of what’s safe,” he said, suggesting that a look at the management structure – and the possible appointment of a ‘bed manager’ as one solution.

The psychiatrist’s letter was received by the Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe (who represents Wexford), and it was brought it to the attention of the Minister for Health and Older People Helen McEntee on the 17 January of this year.

Also on the letter’s mailing list was the Taoiseach’s office.

In her reply, also released in an FOI and dated 16 February, the Minister McEntee said that the admission of children to adult psychiatric wards does happen on occasion.

She said that Éist Linn, the child and adolescent unit in Cork City, accepts referrals for patients throughout Cork, Kerry and the South East.

“The HSE has indicated, that a bed became available in Éist Linn Monday 6 February and that the patient was transferred to that facility.”

The Psychiatric Nurses Association has said previously that there is only half the number of required staff at Waterford Regional Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry.

A lack of staff, and a shortage of beds have resulted in patients being placed on chairs and beds in corridors of the department due to a lack of capacity.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that a 16-year-old girl spent the night in a chair at the adult unit of Waterford Regional Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry as there were no beds available in either acute ward.

Although the department is only licensed to care for 44 patients, the unit is often over that number because of increased demand and referrals from the A&E unit at the main hospital.

The HSE has referred queries in relation to Waterford Regional Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry to the hospital. TheJournal.ie is awaiting a reply.

Read: 16-year-old patient spent the night on a chair at adult psychiatric unit

Read: Patients placed on chairs and beds in corridors of Waterford psychiatric unit

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