THE assessment of patients with acute psychiatric illness in hospital emergency departments has been defended by Anne O’Connor, HSE National Director for Mental Health.
She was responding to revelations which showed how some patients with severe mental illness have had to endure days on trolleys in Beaumont Hospital.
Ms O’ Connor said it is important to ensure people with acute psychiatric illness are safe and they receive the right level of care, including physical examination.
She emphasised that it is important that the patients attend the right doctors.
“The challenge is to make sure they are seen by the right people,” she said.
But she conceded that a lack of in-patient beds for psychiatric patients in north Dublin is “a challenge”.
The HSE hopes to transfer some patients to community-based facilities to free up beds.
Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch said she only learned of the Beaumont situation from the media.
“There is no excuse for having people in ED units longer than they should be,” the minister said. “I will be looking at it to see what action is to be taken.”
Yesterday the Irish Independent revealed that within the last month alone there has been a litany of incidents including:
*A psychiatric patient tried to stab a care assistant.
*Terrified patients watched as a person tried to slash their own wrists while making obscene comments about children.
*Gardai were called to locate a patient who disappeared without treatment.
In an email to Beaumont CEO Liam Duffy, the hospital’s Head Clinician in Emergency Medicine Peadar Gilligan said the victim of one attack was a newly-appointed care assistant who was almost stabbed by a psychotic patient.
He added had it not been for the bravery of one of the Emergency Medicine Registrars in coming to his assistance, “the outcome could have been much worse”.
It is understood that the patient chased the staff member with a pair of scissors.
Another memo signed by some nursing staff at the A&E said the situation was “harmful for patients”.