THE HSE must prevent children from being admitted to adult mental health units which can be “potentially damaging”, a lecturer in University College Cork has said.
More than 80 children were admitted to adult mental health units during 2018 including at least two in Cork, it has been revealed.
Professor of Psychiatry at University College Cork, Ted Dinan, said the situation is far from ideal.
“A general adult mental health unit is never an optimal placement for a minor,” he said.
“As a consultant in general adult psychiatry, all one can do in such circumstances, is to make sure that the child involved is nursed on a one-to-one basis and is not exposed to any inappropriate interaction with adults,” added Professor Dinan.
“Within the HSE we must eliminate such potentially damaging admissions of children as quickly as possible.
“However, it is worth pointing out that, within the EU, Ireland is not unique in terms of this problem.
“It arises in other countries also.”
Fianna Fáil’s mental health spokesperson, James Browne TD, described the latest figures as a “shocking indictment of this government’s failure to adequately deal with this issue”.
The Department of Health’s strategy document, A Vision for Change, published in 2006, sets out the aim of having a minimum of 108 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in-patient beds.
Currently, there are just 76 CAMHS inpatient beds in four acute units nationally; this can fall as low as 48 beds due to staff shortages or high dependency cases.
“This issue needs to be tackled urgently,” said Mr Browne.
“The Mental Health Commission has previously said that such admissions are a clear breach of the human rights and dignity of a child.
“Vulnerable children should not be subjected to further trauma with such practices.”