Residents of psychiatric unit kept in nightclothes all day, report finds

Residents of a psychiatric unit were kept in nightclothes throughout the day, a practice which has been criticised by the Inspector of Mental Health Services.

It was one of a number of concerns raised by Dr Susan Finnerty about the Department of Psychiatry, at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, Co Laois, a 46-bed acute psychiatric unit.

The Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise

A report published by the Mental Health Commission found there was a lack of respect for residents' privacy, dignity and autonomy.

The entrances to both wards were found to be locked at all times when the unit was inspected in May this year.

In the high observation unit, all residents were subject to blanket restrictions, such as the prescription of night clothing during the day.

“This was demeaning as the risk of absconsion was mitigated by a locked door,” said Dr Susan Finnerty.

There was no access to mobile phones and there was restricted access to therapeutic and recreational activities.

Physical restraint and seclusion were used and the unit was found to be non-compliant in both.

The garden needed attention and internal areas were in a poor state of repair.

There was an ongoing programme of general and decorative maintenance and records kept but the place was unclean.

“A cleaning schedule was implemented, but the approved centre was not clean, hygienic, and free from offensive odours throughout,” said Dr Finnerty.

The unit was also criticised for not having electroconvulsive therapy records signed by the registered doctor who administered the treatment.

In St Anne's Unit, a 12-bed centre in Sacred Heart Hospital, in Castlebar, Co Mayo, one resident had received medication covertly without the completion of a capacity assessment.

The unit, a locked interim assessment ward for people over the age of 65, was inspected in February.

Residents' records were stored in an open trolley in the nurse's station, which was observed to be unlocked and unsupervised at times over the course of the inspection.

A recording function on a CCTV system used by Eist Linn Child and Adolescent In-patient Unit in Cork was disabled at the request of inspectors who visited the centre in April.

The unit based the Bessborough Centre in Blackrock that has 20 registered bed had ten residents when it was inspected. It has never operated at full capacity because of ongoing medical staff shortage.

By Evelyn Ring
Irish Examiner Reporter

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