Staff at Cork mental health unit found to be dismissive and negative around patients

The Mental Health Committee (MHC) at Cork Mental Health Hospital has warned of a culture reminiscent of the kind that “may have been provided decades ago”.

An inspection at St Stephen’s Hospital on the north side of Cork found that staff in one unit could be “disapproving” of residents and negative about the prospect of improving their lives.

The MHC inspected the 87-bed hospital between August 3 and 6, and performed a follow-up examination of the third unit, about which it had particular concerns, on August 16. After this inspection, I ordered the hospital to reduce the number of admissions to the unit.

The committee said the governance arrangements, which were described as “inexplicable”, had a “harmful” impact on patients in the unit.

While the others were under the management of North Cork Mental Health Services, the third unit, consisting of 18 beds for male residents with severe and permanent mental illness, was under North Lee Services.

“This resulted in a lack of oversight of the unit, with the consequent absence of intensive care for recovery,” the report said. “The general behavior of a few employees and the manner in which they addressed and communicated with residents was not appropriate at all times. This communication has been observed to be dismissive on two occasions.”

The hospital in general was found to be inconsistent with standards, including critical non-compliance with individual care planning and risk management.

The inspectors found that the person in charge of risk management was not known to all employees; Fire doors in two separate units failed to function as fire doors, which meant that there were not enough precautions to control fire risk management; The windows on two units must be replaced; The anchor points remained in the center.

The mental health services inspector, Dr. Susan Finnerty, said the center clearly had “systemic issues when it came to premises, risk management, treatment services and programs, and individualized care planning.”

“I was particularly concerned because the culture in one unit was reminiscent of a model of mental health care that might have been introduced decades ago.

There was a general negative attitude about the possibility of improving the lives of residents. There was a focus on what they couldn’t do, their potential for aggression, and the fact that they would always need that kind of care.

“This has resulted in a limited therapeutic contribution to this population, a lack of care based on recovery principles, and a harsh and lacking comfort environment. We should really say that we need to completely remove any last vestige of this attitude and approach to mental health care from our services.”

John Farley, CEO of MHC, said the reports emphasized the need for Health Services Executives (HSE) to improve governance, management and oversight of investment in inpatient mental health facilities in the Greater Cork area.

“Health, Safety and Environment in other regions and in other counties within this community health organization has demonstrated a clear ability to judicious use of funds allocated to it by the state. We will continue to be concerned about patterns of non-compliance across a number of centers in Cork and will continue to monitor this closely.”

Health, Safety and Environment did not issue a response to the report.

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