USE of agency staff at a special care unit for young offenders in Limerick remains an issue of concern for HIQA.
But the health watchdog’s overall assessment of the HSE-run Coovagh House shows huge improvement, and there “were no practices that did not meet the required standard”.
An unannounced inspection of the unit, which lies in the grounds of St Joseph’s Hospital, took place last October and found Coovagh House operating at full capacity with three young residents. Two girls, aged 14 and 16, and a 15-year-old boy were being cared for by a total of 40 staff at the time of inspection. Young people are referred to special care units by order of the High Court.
Coovagh House was built 11 years ago for €6 million and has annual running costs of around €2 million.
It had previously been criticised by HIQA as being poorly run and attracted headlines over high-profile breaks for freedom by teenage residents.
But the latest inspection presents a much-improved picture.
“The unit was clear about their overall purpose and function and the number of young people that the unit catered for. The three members of the management team were all in post in an acting capacity; however,they presented as highly motivated, child-centred and shared a clear vision for the centre,” the report finds.
Relationships between staff and children were good while parents and guardians also “spoke highly” of Coovagh House.
A HSE monitoring officer had reported in April 2103 that there was an “over-reliance on agency staff and high levels of sick leave”.
Some recommendations made on foot of that report remained to be implemented, including on the use of agency staff.
A total of 16 recommendations arise for Coovagh House from the latest HIQA report.
These include the completion by the HSE of an “audit of the training needs of agency staff”, something the HSE anticipates will be completed by March of this year.
It is also recommended that the HSE nationally should “have a strategy in place which ensures that suitable onward placements are available for young people at time of discharge from special care units”.
And ensuring better attendance at the school attached to Coovagh House is also recommended by HIQA.