Tuesday, November 05, 2019

SERIOUS doubt has been cast over the future of UHW’s Department of Psychiatry (DOP) after the Mental Health Commission warned that unless significant improvements are made, the 44-bed unit may not be permitted to re-register.

Approved centres are required to re-register every three years with UHW’s DOP registration due to expire in March of next year.  

A meeting is scheduled for the coming weeks in relation to whether the centre will be permitted to be re-registered. However, significant improvements and changes have to be made, a statement from the Commission said.

The stark warning came as the statutory body heavily criticised overcapacity and said that patients sleeping in chairs was “absolutely unacceptable”.

A total of 54 residents were treated in the 44-bed unit, five of those residents, due to lack of space, were being forced to sleep in chairs.

“This is an absolutely unacceptable situation, and one which we are approaching with the utmost of seriousness,” said Mental Health Commission Chief Executive John Farrelly.

“The approved centre is registered to facilitate 44 residents, but it has become apparent that there are insufficient beds to deal with the overflow of residents from other approved centres in its catchment area,” he said.

“Additionally, the 10 private beds assigned to Waterford Mental Health Services at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services in Dublin are at present at capacity, which means that patients who otherwise would have been treated through the private healthcare system have been sent back to the public DOP Waterford, putting additional strain on the staffing and resources in the hospital, and contributing to the extreme overcapacity.”

Following an unannounced inspection the Commission sent an initial notice in May regarding its ongoing concerns, and a Regulatory Compliance Meeting with the senior HSE officials was held on July 3.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was implemented in February with St Patrick’s Mental Health Service in relation to the transfer of private residents from Waterford. Initially the arrangement was for four beds, but this increased to 10. A Surge Capacity Management Plan was also implemented allowing the transfer of excess patients to the DOP in Kilkenny.

Mr Farrelly said it’s obvious that the plan is insufficient and needs to be revised. “The Commission has engaged with the HSE at the highest level, organising a meeting with David Walsh (National Director of Community Operations) to discern how the HSE plans to implement effective governance and management in DOP Waterford in order to mitigate the issue at hand.”

Where the Commission has ongoing concerns about the care provided by any centre regulated by them, it may opt to remove such a service from the register – and therefore close it.

The Commission may also decide to prosecute a service in relation to very serious and ongoing concerns.

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