Staff at Limerick care facility 'fear for their lives'

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts


Staff at Limerick care facility 'fear for their lives'

Staff at Coovagh House say they are in fear of their lives

STAFF at a facility for severely troubled teenagers in Mulgrave Street say they are in fear of their lives.

The Impact trade union is to seek urgent meetings with management at Coovagh House – a €6m facility which houses three minors – after workers spoke of how they fear a repeat of the situation in Oberstown, where teens there ran riot and a fire broke out at the Dublin centre.

Thirty people work at the high-security site in the city, and it is understood some are refusing to take clients out of the centre on visits, due to fears for their safety.

One staff member, who asked not to be identified, said: “Every day when you go in there, you fear you will be assaulted, or something worse. Some of us are afraid of our lives. The gardai have protection, they have pepper spray, they have handcuffs and batons. We have nothing.”

Another long-serving staff member said: “The clients we are dealing with now are very dangerous. We used to get kids in there who needed proper therapeutic intervention. They are not getting that now. We are containing the children. I would compare it to Oberstown. There is a fear there could be another ‘Oberstown’ here.”

Coovagh House, which is in the grounds of St Joseph’s Hospital, was set up to deal with five troubled teens at a time. 

But this number has fallen to three due to the fact there are not enough staff to provide round-the-clock care.

In a 2013 report, Hiqa recorded 37 staff working in Coovagh House. This has since fallen to 30.

An Impact source confirmed they had sought a meeting with management of the Tusla-run facility over the health and safety of staff.

“People are presenting with a lot more aggressive behaviour.

“There have been a number of incidents of aggressive behaviour over the last 18 months,” they said.

Meanwhile, the Limerick Leader understands the youth who may be moved to a specialised secure psychiatric facility in Britain is based at Coovagh House.

The High Court heard this week that the government jet may be called upon to make the transfer.

Tusla said as an agency, it liaises on a regular basis with Impact officials in relation to “staff welfare and working conditions” at Coovagh House.

“Tusla can confirm one such meeting is taking place on Thursday, September 8 and issues relating to staff welfare and working conditions will be discussed,” a spokerson added.