A TWENTY-bed mental health facility for children should be provided in the city as “a matter of urgency”, according to Fine Gael TD Dan Neville.
In a speech at Dáil Éireann, Deputy Neville stated that children in Limerick who require inpatient psychiatric help must travel to Cork, Galway or Dublin to get treatment.
In January 2006, national mental policy A Vision For Change made recommendations to the HSE, that “urgent attention” should be given to the completion of a planned 20-bedded unit in Limerick, with “multidisciplinary teams” also provided, by 2011.
“Since then, the HSE, in its wisdom, has decided that no such unit should be built in Limerick. Why is this the situation? A Vision for Change was very meticulous and detailed in its investigation of all the needs of the mental health services and it made this suggestion.
“There is an urgent need in the city. Psychiatrists, psychotherapists and general mental health services staff have expressed concern about the unsuitability of minors sharing inpatient psychiatric care with adults,” he told Minister of State Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin, last Thursday.
He stated that one of the key issues in the recovery of a child is the “presence of their parents”.
“They need their parents to visit them, to feel the support of their parents and to feel comfortable with their parents. If a child from the Mid-West is placed in Dublin, Cork or Galway, it is extremely difficult for the families. Some families can afford to visit their children only occasionally, which is very detrimental to the children. Why has the recommended provision of inpatient mental health services been withdrawn?
“Why is the Mid-West being discriminated against?”
Minister Ó’Ríordáin responded in the Dáil, saying that children in Limerick have access to “state-of-the-art” services in Galway, and added there is an out-of-hours on-call service provided through the emergency department at the University Hospital Limerick.
He said that there is a consultant-led mental health service for children, provided by multidisciplinary teams, across Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary.
“Plans are being advanced to explore the possibility of providing the equivalent of a day hospital-type service. This will further enhance the capacity of the services within the region,” he said.
Deputy Neville said that his question had not been answered.
The Limerick [County] TD acknowledged that, since 2006, there have been 58 additional beds, but that it falls “short of the 100 beds that should have been provided”, nationally.
“I am asking about the provision of a 20-bed inpatient psychiatric unit for children and adolescents in Limerick to serve the Mid-West region. That is the point I am making in this debate. I have not yet received a reply. Why did the development of such a unit not take place? Why was it scrapped?”
He said that Deputy Neville made a “solid case”, but did not have an answer to his question.
He said that he will ensure that the Department of Health responds to Deputy Neville in writing with answers.