TWO critical risks and a number of high-risk non-compliances were found after an inspection of a Cork inpatient mental health centre.
The inspection of St Michael’s Unit in the Mercy Hospital was undertaken by the Mental Health Commission. The 50-bed unit is run by the HSE and received an overall compliance rate of 75% from the inspector — down from 82% in 2020.
The unit was found to be compliant in 24 areas and non-compliant in eight areas. Two of the risks were rated as critical while four were high and two were moderate.
One of the two critical risks found in the unit were related to privacy. The inspectors noted that there was a lack of space in two shared bedrooms.
According to the commission, the rooms were too small and cramped and the spacing between the beds and lockers was insufficient to ensure the dignity of residents.
The unit was also found to be non-compliant with a regulation relating to premises, which was rated as critical. The inspectors found that residents in the centre had limited access to personal indoor or outdoor space to relax and move about in. According to the report, the residents’ recreational areas were very confined and there was no access to outdoor space.
The centre is located on the first floor of the hospital with the main entrance leading onto the street.
“The centre also did not have suitable furnishings to support residents’ independence and comfort, including a limited number of chairs in the communal areas,” the inspectors said.
“Due to the overall lack of personal space and not having enough chairs for residents, it was noted that residents were spending time around bed areas.”
It was also found that some hazards were not minimised in the centre, including the cleaning of trolleys and blood pressure machines, and that the centre was unclean in some areas.
Additionally, it was found that some residents had not been able to access the care of an occupational therapist for six months. The commission said that assurances had been provided that improvements had been made since the inspection.
The report was released alongside two other reports on facilities in Co Kerry. The Deer Lodge residential mental health recovery unit in Killarney and the Sliabh Mis Mental Health Admission Unit in Tralee received three and four high risk non-compliances respectively.
The Inspector of Mental Health Services, Dr Susan Finnerty, said it was concerning that compliance standards across the three centres had disimproved since previous inspections.
“We expect services to improve year on year, but to have these three centres fall in standards, and some precipitously so, is very disappointing."
Mental Health Commission chief executive John Farrelly called the number of risks reported unacceptable. “All of the centres are operated by the HSE in the same Community Healthcare Organisation, and we expect to see those involved in governance here to lead on the significant improvements that are needed,” he said.
In a statement to The Echo, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said: “We accept the reports of the Mental Health Commission published today, and work is already well under way on each of the recommendations made by the commission.
“Since these visits by the Mental Health Commission, a significant amount of planning and work has gone into measures to improve the service.
“Cork Kerry Community Healthcare has secured capital funding for reconfiguration of the unit which will address the issues of the physical structure and a project group has been established to progress this.”