Written Answers. - Mental Hospitals Report.

Dan Neville

Question:

587 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on whether the report of the inspector of the mental hospitals which he recently received presents a devastating picture of conditions in the hospitals; and his further views on whether it is totally unacceptable that human beings must exist in such conditions. [1822/99]

In the report of the Mental Hospitals for 1997, the inspector highlighted the poor conditions that exist in some wards located in the old, large, Victorian style hospitals, which are unsuitable for in-patient care of psychiatric patients. However, as these wards are closed and more community based alternative facilities are provided, steady progress is being made towards improving the quality of mental heath care in this country.

The inspector pointed out in his 1997 report that the rate of progress in upgrading unsatisfactory accommodation or providing alternative community residental accommodation, as well as the development of acute units in general hospitals, has been dictated by the availability of capital funding. In order to address this problem £7 million was provided in capital funds in 1998 which will accelerate the provision of acute psychiatric units in general hospitals. For example, I have included in the capital programme provision for units at Portlaoise, Kilkenny, Sligo, Nenagh, Ennis, St. Vincent's, Elm Park and Beaumont Hospital. Capital funds have also been made available for the provision of additional community based facilities throughout the country including facilities for the older people with mental health problems.

The Inspector of Mental Hospitals has, over the past decade, played a crucial role in raising standards in the mental health services in this country. I acknowledge the influence of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals and his team in improving the quality of our mental health services and in the promotion of good practice. The improvements achieved in 1997 are documented in the report and while these improvements are welcome, I fully acknowledge that much remains to be done to improve both physical facilities and services within the mental health sector. It is my intention to continue with the initiatives which I commenced in 1998 so that we improve the rate of progress in the provision of a modern mental health service.