Number of vulnerable mental health patients placed in prison due to bed shortage in Central Mental Hospital.
Yesterday it emerged that 26 mentally ill patients who were deemed a danger to themselves and others are being kept in Irish prisons because of a bed shortage at the Central Mental Hospital.
This article by Pat Flanagan appeared on Dublin Live on 30/04/18
A number of vulnerable mental health patients have been locked away in prison because there was nowhere else for them to stay at the country’s biggest psychiatric hospital.
And now there are serious concerns for the wellbeing of prison staff and prisoners because the patients are “unmedicated and untreated”.
The Hospital’s Medical Director Professor Harry Kennedy said a lack of capacity at the Central Mental Hospital has resulted in prisoners and staff at other facilities being injured by severely mentally ill patients who require specialist treatment.
Prof Kennedy told RTE that a shortage of beds means that people on the waiting list “get more and more ill, and it is more difficult to treat them when we eventually do get them in”.
He said: “As a state we are failing severely mentally ill people, they’re in prison instead of being in care, this is not good.
“Although all of those people have a history of serious violence to other people, it is also very likely that they will seriously harm themselves as the next thing that happens.”
“That is not as easy to manage while they are untreated in a prison, where as we are entirely designed to manage that while they are here.”
“So the simple clinical and humanitarian obligation to look after extremely ill people isn’t being met.”
Professor Kennedy added that, as clinical director of the Central Mental Hospital, is failing to meet his own legal obligation to provide a safe treatment facility for people with severe mental illness.
He said as an administrator he was effectively breaking the law by not providing a bed for a severely ill patient when ordered to do so by the courts.
Professor Kennedy also said he had been advised by HSE lawyers that there was a chance he himself could end up in jail himself for contempt of court for not meeting his obligations as clinical director.
He told RTE that the Central Mental Hospital was operating “at the edge” of safe levels, and did not have a full complement of nurses.
He said: “We have the doctors, psychologists, social workers, and occupational therapists to staff it, but we don’t have the nurses.
“Its now in a condition where we could use it, but we cannot find the nurses to staff it.”