I welcome the Minister of State, whom I have not met previously.
I refer to the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum. The 2015 Mental Health Commission inspection report referred to various areas of compliance and excellent standards, with many good practices on display. It appears that the hospital and, in particular, its staff are working to a high level and providing an excellent service within the confines of the resources given to them. The hospital was described in the report as:
The approved centre was an inpatient service of the National Forensic Service. It was located in Dundrum Dublin and had 94 beds ... The main building was over 150 years old and was not suitable for the care and treatment of mental health patients. Plans for the new forensic hospital were progressing.
The plans will be now be realised on the site at Portrane. Will the Minister of State confirm that the opening date will be 2020?
I would like to discuss the facilities in place for violent, mentally ill people while we await the new hospital. The Irish Times reported on 21 June that Professor Harry Kennedy, the clinical director, had told the High Court that all 94 beds in the Central Mental Hospital were full and that there was a waiting list of 24. He said that while mental hospitals in Ireland had been closed down, the necessary services were not being provided to look after people who had been detained in them. This sentiment was echoed by my old colleague and the former general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, PNA, Mr. Des Kavanagh, in his report earlier this year.
He stated, "the correlation between the closure of hospitals and the increase in the prison population of people with serious mental illness is inescapable." He continued by discussing regular cases of violence and, indeed, homicide involving those who are mentally ill. He urged the Government to review all such killings and assaults over the past ten years and come up with recommendations for a prevention strategy.
The Mental Health Commission's inspection report in 2015 found that:
There were eight units in the approved centre [at the Central Mental Hospital] and this allowed the male patients to progress from acute care with high security through medium to low security and rehabilitation. However, all ten female patients were accommodated in one unit, whatever their level of acuity, security requirements and rehabilitation needs.
Does the Minister for Health think that the opening of the extra beds in the period prior to the new hospital being opened would improve these conditions? The report also states:
Due to the waiting list of seven patients in other approved centres [never mind prisons] awaiting transfer ... plans were progressing to renovate and re-open a closed unit (Unit 5) to provide 10 beds for these patients. The completion date for this was the end of 2015.
The beds in question are ready, duvets have been placed on them and yet they lie empty. Mental health institutions have been closed down and nothing substantial has replaced them. As a result, the rare but real cases of people with mental illness who have violent inclinations have slipped through the gaps and caused real harm in our society and to themselves.
I have a few questions for the Minister. Has the Central Mental Hospital reopened the ten beds? If not, why? How does he intend to rectify the current crisis in the period prior to the facility in Portrane being opened?
I have spoken to various staff and learned that negotiations have been held up due the fact that decisions handed down by the Workplace Relations Commission in 2012 have not been implemented. I ask that the Minister intervene in order to get the negotiations going. I urge him to bring people to the table and to get these beds open.