Mental Health Commission takes case against HSE facility in Cork

The HSE solicitor said the matter is "fully contested."
Mental Health Commission takes case against HSE facility in Cork

HSE solicitor Katherine Kelleher said the Mental Health Commission had recently presented a substantial volume of documentation in relation to the prosecution. picture: iStock

The HSE’s St. Stephen’s psychiatric hospital in Cork is being prosecuted by the Mental Health Commission for an alleged breach of a condition of registration.

Barrister, Eoghan O’Sullivan, for the Mental Health Commission, said, “The conditions of registration are there for the protection of vulnerable people. There are concerns about the suitability of that (emergency) ward for the admission of patients.” 

Judge Marian O’Leary said after the background to the prosecution was briefly opened to her that she was being told in relation to the conditions of registration, “It is there to protect vulnerable people but they are the ones who are not allowed to transfer to the acute ward.” 

HSE solicitor Katherine Kelleher said the Mental Health Commission had recently presented a substantial volume of documentation in relation to the prosecution. “722 pages were furnished to my office. I am trawling through it,” Ms Kelleher said.

The HSE solicitor said that time would be needed to go through the voluminous documentation. “I am asking for it go back four weeks.

“The matter is fully contested. My client’s approach is that an exceptionally vulnerable person (is at the centre of the matter),” she said.

Ms Kelleher was particularly concerned that there would be no identification of the exceptionally vulnerable patient. The solicitor said there might need to be “a mini-hearing” to deal with this aspect of the case before the case itself is heard.

“I would say it should be put back for four weeks. The HSE take those matters very seriously. My clients do not believe they are in breach of conditions,” Ms Kelleher said.

When Mr O’Sullivan BL for the Mental Health Commission opened the matter at Cork District Court referred to exceptions to registration conditions, Ms Kelleher submitted that the present case fell within the exceptional category.

Regarding the length of time it would take for the case to come to hearing, Ms Kelleher said, “My clients and myself won’t be dragging our feet.” 

Judge O’Leary adjourned the case to November 16. It is anticipated that the parties – the MHC and the HSE – may be able to indicate how long a hearing of the case would take and at that stage a date will be set for the hearing.

Mr O’Sullivan for the MHC said he wished to make it clear that the case was only taken as a matter of last resort and that over a number of years the MHC had some concerns with St. Stephen’s Hospital. 

He said they engaged with the hospital but were not satisfied with the response and that conditions were attached to the registration of the hospital – one being that they were not to transfer new patients to the acute ward. This is where the breach allegedly occurred, the MHC barrister said.

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