HSE keeps condemned mental hospitals open

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

The HSE has admitted it has not yet taken action to improve the third-world conditions which hundreds of patients in old psychiatric hospitals around the country still have to endure.

The health executive in some cases is keeping open facilities whose conditions for in-patients have been condemned as 'appalling' and 'deplorable' by the inspectorate of mental hospitals, which recommended these facilities be closed down.

There are continuing delays in moving patients to better facilities and in providing new mental health treatment units to replace the old hospitals.

The recent Inspector of Mental Health Services report, which detailed inspections carried out in 2007, painted a grim picture of the appalling conditions which some residents have to endure in ageing psychiatric hospitals around the country.

The Inspector called for two of these hospitals, St Loman's in Mullingar and St Joseph's in Limerick, to be closed, urging that St Loman's be closed immediately.

However, eight months after the Inspector's visit to St Loman's took place, the HSE has confirmed that the hospital remains open, even though it admits itself that the facilities there are 'not what is required in the 21st century'.

The HSE has also confirmed that St Joseph's Hospital in Limerick remains open, again eight months after it was inspected and the Inspectorate urged the HSE to close the hospital and move residents to a more acceptable standard of accommodation.

The HSE has also admitted that despite the Inspectorate stating that admissions were due to cease at St Brendan's Hospital in north Dublin with the opening of a new unit at Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown in February 2008, this unit still not been opened.

The following are excerpts from the Inspector's report and the HSE update:

St Loman's, Mullingar:

Inspector's comments:

"Apart from the admission units, the conditions in areas of St Loman's Hospital remained very poor with damp, peeling paint, tiles lifting on floors, poor sanitary facilities, curtains falling down and drab and institutional-style furnishings and decor. A significantly large number of these areas were dirty, including sluice rooms and bathrooms and toilets. In short, the conditions that people with enduring mental illness have to live in permanently in St Loman's Hospital were deplorable....every effort must be made to close the hospital immediately."

HSE update:

"The HSE fully acknowledges that the physical condition of some of these buildings (at St Loman's) is not what is required in the 21st century." It says the age of the buildings makes ongoing maintenance work difficult. The HSE added that it is currently considering two projects relating to the local mental health services. Firstly, an upgrade of one of  the blocs at St Loman's at a cost of €1.8 million, and secondly, the development of a 12 bed residential hostel for elderly clients with an enduring mental illness at a cost of €1.85 million. "It is hoped that news on the deliberations on these two projects will be announced shortly."

The HSE told irishhealth.com that the upgrading work planned should result in in many of the concerns reported by the Inspector. However, the Inspector had urged that every effort be made to actually close the hospital immediately.

St Joseph's, Limerick

Inspector's comments:

"There were still 82 residents in long-stay wards in St Joseph's, 14 of whom have an intellectual disability...
the appalling conditions in St Martin's ward have been highlighted repeatedly. Other wards were not in an acceptable condition....moving residents around an old dilapidated building while painting and renovation was carried out was not acceptable.There was no reason for St Joseph's Hospital to remain open. The HSE was urged to close the hospital and move residents to an acceptable standard of accommodation."

HSE update:

The HSE said despite the Inspector's recommendation, the hospital remains open. It said it is continuing to work on the transfer of patients to more suitable accommodation and many patients who were formerly resident in the hospital are now in community facilities. The HSE admitted that the conditions in some wards were less than satisfactory.

St Brendan's, Dublin

Inspector's comments:

"Once again the conditions found on inspection in St Brendan's Hospital were extremely poor. The Mental Health Commission was informed as a matter of urgency and the service has submitted a plan to the Commission to remedy these deficits...admissions to St Brendan's were due to cease with the opening of the unit in Connolly Hospital (scheduled for February 2008)...which despite multiple start dates had not yet fully opened."

HSE update:

The HSE says admissions have still not ceased at St Brendan's. The unit at Connolly Hospital is still not open. However, the HSE said it is aiming for a cessation of admissions to St Brendan's and the opening of the new unit at Connolly Hospital towards the end of this year.

St Ita's, Portrane

Inspector's comments:

"Once again, the conditions in the hospital were poor. There was damp, paint was peeling and some areas were dirty, although a painting schedule had been provided to the inspectorate and the service stated that there had been 'continuous routine refurbishment'. In one ward, residents' clothing had been stored on open rails in the ward as there was not enough individual wardrobe space....curtains were falling down and in one ward bed curtains were not functioning properly...there had been no advance in 2007 in the development of a new acute unit in Beaumont Hospital (to replace  facilities at St Ita's)."


According to Beaumont Hospital, while the site originally allocated for the psychiatric unit to replace facilities at St Ita's was now earmarked for the co-located hospital, another site at Beaumont has been identified for the psycyhiatric unit. A Beaumont spokesperson pointed out that the main issue here had been obtaining the necessary funding for the unit from the HSE, and this had not been forthcoming, despite having been sought over a number of years.


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