Council calls on HSE to improve conditions at St Loman’s

Patients in St Loman’s psychiatric hospital, Mullingar are living in “conditions belonging to another age” and the HSE must take urgent action to improve the situation.

That’s according to Mullingar town councillors, who were responding to recent findings by the Inspectorate of Mental Health Services that some of the hospital’s wards were in ‘poor condition and unfit for human habitation’.

Mayor Cllr Ruth Illingworth led calls at last week’s council meeting for the HSE to take steps to improve conditions for both patients and staff at the hospital. She was particularly critical that money which was raised through the sale of lands on site had not been used to make improvements at the facility.

“It is a very bleak and shocking report, and is the first report to cast the hospital in such a negative light. I am urging the HSE to take action. Things need to improve now and should have improved years ago. It is unacceptable that the most vulnerable members of our society are in such conditions. It is demeaning for patients and staff,” said Cllr Illingworth.

Describing conditions as “substandard”, the mayor said it was unacceptable that one ward was found by the report to be “unfit for human habitation”.

“The treatment of the mentally ill in our hospitals needs to be taken much more seriously, and we need to address many factors including prejudice towards the mentally ill,” she said.

She added that there had been some “disturbing suggestions” made about St Loman’s, including that monies generated from the sale of lands at the hospital, which were supposed to go towards improving conditions for patients and staff, have not yet been spent there.

“The main building at St Loman’s is a very fine building and very historic, but perhaps it is not suitable for patients who can be helped to recovery by cheerful, bright hospital accommodation. I urge that the money from the sale of lands of St Loman’s estate be used to ensure 21st century standards for patients and staff,” said Cllr Illingworth.

“I urge the HSE and the department to prioritise the treatment of this vulnerable section of society and to have services we can be proud of. It is shameful that at the end of a decade during which Ireland was described as the richest country in the world, patients are living in conditions belonging to another age.”

Supporting Cllr Illingworth’s motion, Cllr Michael Dollard, himself an employee of St Loman’s, added that the report wasn’t entirely negative and that it also drew attention to the excellent care and attention patients receive at the hospital. He made a number of recommendations for the development of the hospital, which he is to raise at the next HSE forum.

“The admission units for St Loman’s should be located in Mullingar Regional Hospital. This would immediately break down the stigma of mental illness,” said Cllr Dollard.

“There was originally supposed to be an acute psychiatric unit at Mullingar Hospital. We should be calling for a unit for patients with acute psychiatric disorders to be established on the campus of St Loman’s, and the old building to be closed down.”

The HSE issued a short statement yesterday indicating it is to address the report’s findings.

“The HSE acknowledges the report of the Inspectorate of Mental Health Services with regard to St Loman’s Hospital, Mullingar. The HSE will be formulating plans to deal with the matters contained in the report,” read the statement.

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