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Nurse suffers burns after patient starts ward blaze

TWO nurses are on sick leave after a violent psychiatric patient set fire to a ward in Tallaght Hospital.

The psychiatric staff remain traumatised after the incident in which they suffered burns and smoke inhalation.

Representatives from the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) said patients and staff were evacuated after the patient lit bedclothes and curtains.

One nurse was burned on his hand and his colleague inhaled fumes.

Peter Hughes from the PNA said that the nurses hoped to return to work soon.

"There's one nurse that is still quite sick with smoke inhalation," he said. "They are quite traumatised."

Des Kavanagh, general secretary of the PNA, said that this was not an isolated incident and listed a number of dangerous situations that psychiatric staff faced due to cutbacks.

"We had access to St Brendan's but this facility has been shut down," he said. "The hospitals on the east coast can't cope with a very aggressive person.

"The facility at St Brendan's was a very secure facility, where the patient could settle down," he added. "Now there is no secure facility."

Mr Kavanagh said that recently a psychiatric patient managed to escape to The Square and purchased knives.

"He came back to the unit, hid a knife and later stabbed an elderly man," he said. "This man had catastrophic injuries."

And a mostly female workforce had to care for a serial rapist in St Ita's Hospital, Portrane, for a period between prison and the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum.

"So over a period of weeks he was in the hospital where there was a predominantly female workforce," he said. "He was in effect a threat to all female staff and was under 24/7 security."

Another patient who came from prison to Tallaght hospital broke into the ceiling cavity and wrapped the electric cable around himself.

A hospital representative was unavailable for comment.

Psychiatric services now receive 5pc of the health budget, down from 6.8pc in 2002.

clairemurphy@herald.ie