Watchdog assessing Covid-19 risk for mental health centres and facilities


The Mental Health Commission is monitoring and risk-assessing how well prepared mental health facilities and care homes are to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak.

The watchdog for mental health services confirmed it is risk-rating mental health centres and community facilities across the country following the deaths of nine residents in a County Laois facility over the Easter weekend.

The Commission expressed sympathies to the family and friends of the nine residents of the Maryborough Centre at St Fintan’s Hospital in Portlaoise, who died over the weekend.

Eight of the residents at the centre for psychiatry of old age tested positive for Covid-19. They were aged between 66 and 84 years old.

The Commission, which regulates and inspects mental health facilities, said it was liaising with mental health units since early March to ensure that “appropriate and robust measures” are in place to deal with the virus.

The mental health watchdog said it was given additional powers in late March to risk assess 176 mental health units and community facilities, which accommodate 3,800 people, and that it is monitoring the availability of personal protective equipment or PPE and staff.

A spokesperson for the Commission said: “We are looking at many aspects of each service, including whether or not these facilities have adequate PPE and staff.”

“The Commission’s priority remains the safety and wellbeing of residents and patients and we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that they are protected as much as possible, and that all centres have appropriate plans in place to treat and care for people who either contract, or are at risk of contracting, Covid-19.”

Meanwhile the HSE said the remaining 17 residents at the Co Laois facility were being managed as though they had the virus and will have their conditions reviewed.

National lead for integrated care with the HSE Dr Siobhan Ni Bhriain told RTE radio that staff at the Maryborough Centre had followed HSE policy.

Efforts were made to separate patients identified as having the virus and those who did not, she explained to RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

If a patient was suspected of having Covid-19 they would be isolated and nursed separately, she said.

Dr Ni Bhriain said if a situation arose in a particular residential setting that became “unmanageable”, the possibility of moving residents elsewhere to safeguard against the virus would be explored.

In a statement, the HSE expressed its sincere sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased: “The HSE would like to express its sincere sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased. Staff at the centre are in contact with the families of the deceased and are available for support and advice.”

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