By Dan Danaher
A BRAIN-damaged, assault victim requires 24-hour security at Ennis hospital psychiatric unit, at a cost of €408,000 last year, it has emerged.
Health authorities have not responded to Care Champion queries about the six-year delay in providing an appropriate high secure facility for the 31-year-old man suffering from organic brain syndrome following a serious assault.
Solicitor Marie Keane said this week that her client is inappropriately placed as an involuntary psychiatric patient in the high observation unit of the acute psychiatric unit at Ennis Hospital since February 2008. He is not a psychiatric patient.
She has called on the Department of Health to fast track the provision of a proper small residential facility for patients suffering from frontal lobe injury that affects affect their comprehension and can result in unpredictable and sometimes unintentional violent behaviour.
Ms Keane has confirmed there is no suitable facility for his specific condition in the Republic of Ireland to accommodate her client, despite “exhaustive efforts” by her and other parties over the past six years.
One private facility that was inspected could provide care at a cost of €750,000 per annum. However, it wouldn’t be governed by the Mental Health Act, leaving him free to leave at any time.
Ms Keane said a new purpose built facility should be provided in the West of Ireland, which would also cater for teenagers and young adults, who suffered drug induced psychosis and are left without a specialist treatment centre.
The Department of Health and the national Health Service Executive declined to respond to a number of Clare Champion queries about the need for a new facility.
Ms Keane said the patient couldn’t be accommodated in the Central Remedial Clinic and the only reason he was left in Ennis Hospital was there was no place for him. She stated he is not a psychiatric patient and is only in the facility after suffering a horrific head injury after an assault.
She believes it is very unfair on the staff and other patients of the Psychiatric Unit to have the High Observation Unit taken up with someone who should be accommodated elsewhere.
Some Irish patients from the West of Ireland with frontal lobe injury have been sent to St Andrews in the Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. However, that requires cross border and cross jurisdiction orders and the patient doesn’t want to go to this facility.
“All the media focus has been on the cost of security. This patient is entitled to the provision of suitable accommodation that is appropriate to his needs, which is where the focus should be.
These patients have low medical needs but do need security because their behaviour is unpredictable,” she said.
She also expressed concern about the lack of a forensic psychiatrist for the West of Ireland since the previous one was stabbed in Limerick a few years ago.
She said Mental Health Tribunals have gone far and above their statutory remit to try to deal with this issue and stressed his consultant psychiatric and staff couldn’t do any more for the patient and were very anxious to try and secure proper accommodation.
The plight of this patient was raised by Councillor Tom McNamara at a recent HSE West Forum meeting, where he queried the total cost of providing his security last year to ensure the maintenance of safety in this unit.
The HSE confirmed that two security officers provided security 24 hours per day last year at a cost of €408,351.78.
Councillor McNamara asked how anyone could stand over this annual bill
He said: “This man is inappropriately placed. I’ve no doubt about that. He should be in an intensive psychiatric care unit and we were supposed to have four of these to cater for such patients in the country under Planning for the Future.
While the regional director of performance and integration for HSE West, Gerry O’Neill took on board Councillor McNamara’s point about the cost; he declined to express his views about an individual patient.
Ms Keane said money from the sale of Our Lady’s Hospital, Ennis was supposed to be ring fenced to develop a high secure facility in Killaloe, which didn’t happen.
In addition to accommodating road traffic accidents victims, who suffer severe head trauma requiring lifelong residential care, she warned doctors expected more patients with the same condition would require this facility.