3,000 patients treated at Limerick's 5B unit since 2010

University Hospital Limerick's psychiatric ward benefits from €7.5m project

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh

3,000 patients treated at Limerick's 5B unit since 2010

The acute psychiatric unit is located in UHL

MORE THAN 3,000 patients have been admitted at University Hospital Limerick’s acute psychiatric unit, also known as 5B, since 2010.

This is according to figures received by the Limerick Leader from the Health Service Executive, under Freedom of Information.

And though figures for 2015 show a significant 16% decrease in the number of patients being treated in 5B since 2010, the rate of admission has slightly fluctuated between 2013 and 2015.

There were 581 patients treated in 5B in 2010; 480 in 2011; 531 in 2012; 499 in 2013; 466 in 2014; and 488 last year. Figures for 2016 will not be released until 2017.

The maximum bed capacity in the unit is 50, and 52 staff members assigned to the unit, with input from medical staff, allied health professional staff from the community mental health team.

The Limerick Leader has published a number of firsthand accounts of patients’ experiences in the unit. In 2015, former patient Mary Milburn, Patrickswell, described the unit as “hell”, while another former patient, Leona O’Callaghan, from Castletroy was often “petrified” by the violent atmosphere during her treatment.

Both wrote open letters following their experiences. After Ms Milburn’s story was published in December 2015, she received a written apology from the HSE this February. Ms Milburn, who met with HSE officials on a number of occasions, called for improvements to be made for the service. 

These improvements arrived on March 16, when the psychiatric unit completed a “comprehensive redevelopment” at a cost of €7.5m, providing the 50 inpatient acute beds for patients in the Mid-West.

The completion of the redevelopment saw a “bright and spacious high observation area”, older adult area, private courtyard, increased communal space for patients, new dining area, a modern, airy and user-friendly environment, with increased natural light, and additional garden space.

A spokesperson for the HSE said that the service now offers “clients a high spec, modern, bright and spacious environment in which to receive treatment to aid in their recovery.

“The redevelopment of Unit 5B was approached on a phased basis to facilitate the ongoing delivery of the clinical service. As with any large scale development project that is running in parallel with the delivery of a clinical service there were many challenges and disruptions faced.”

The spokesperson said that a key feature of the project has been the involvement of patients to ensure “that all issues and concerns were addressed with appropriate actions and controls put in place to manage risk. 

“The cooperation and assistance of the various service areas and service users in facilitating the development is acknowledged and appreciated.”

The HSE Mid-West added: “The project has delivered a high spec facility to cater for the complex needs of those with acute mental health difficulties. It is the hope of the HSE Mid West Mental Health Services that the new Unit will aid people’s journey to recovery in an environment that is reflective of modern healthcare delivery.”