Unfit to Treat Humans; Psychiatric Wards to Close as Report Catalogues a Litany of Poor Training and Equipment

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Byline: Ian Carey

PSYCHIATRIC patients are being treated in wards 'unfit for human habitation', according to a damning report released on mental health services.

Dilapidated facilities and poor management were noted in the Government report, while untrained staff performed electroshock therapy at one leading hospital.

Last night, the Minister for State with responsibility for mental health, John Moloney, vowed to close two facilities immediately and fast-track reform of the institutions in the wake of the findings.

The Department of Health's mental health inspectors assessed the State's 63 psychiatric hospitals and mental health facilities which can accommodate 2,700 patients.

At St Loman's Hospital in Mullingar, which they described as 'dilapidated, desolate and depressing', officers concluded that two wards were in 'poor condition and unfit for human habitation and should be decommissioned as a matter of urgency.' And Mr Moloney said that e43million had been ring-fenced in the Budget to reform mental health services as a matter of urgency.

Funding had also been provided to close the psychiatric units in Ballinasloe and Clonmel.

He explained: 'It is a shocking indictment of the state of our mental health hospitals. I have visited many of the facilities over the last year and I have found exactly what is outlined in the report.

'We recognise the need for this reform and we will make commitments on March 1 on how we are going to achieve this with timeframes and price-tags included.' In one of the country's largest hospitals, the Mater in Dublin, inspectors found that regulations for staff using the electroconvulsive therapy, mechanical restraint, or seclusion treatment were not followed. Meanwhile, at St Ita's in Portrane, north Dublin, people were forced to live in 'appalling conditions' and it was 'difficult to convey the extent of the dilapidation'. …