Security fears over shared campus for students and mental patients
Staff at St. Brendan's psychiatric hospital fear a plan to transform the 70-acre hospital site into a cross-community campus for the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) will have broader security implications. Plans have been made to re-house mental patients, ranging in age from 18 to 70, to the same site as the new DIT campus into what the Grangegorman Development Agency (GDA) has called “a cross-community synergy development”. Staff at Ireland's oldest public psychiatric hospital say they have been “left in the dark” by the HSE about the finer details of the project since the new development was unveiled by the government. While they welcome certain positive aspects of the project, they expressed caution at what they see as a move by the HSE to integrate the patients with students in an open campus. “We have been told it will be [a plan] more of community integration than segregation, “said one nurse.
A number of the hospital's patients were sent to Grangegorman from other institutions in Dundrum, Portlaoise and Naas Prison when family or other accommodation options failed. Many patients require secure units.
“Many of the females have issues with self harm and we are on suicide watch most of the time,” said one occupational therapist. Some of the males have forensic histories and have a limited ability to go out on their own.”
The GDA were unable to provide specific details of security measures that would be implemented. A spokesperson said they did not have specific information and referred to the website which says: “Mental health patients will need suitable physical space for their treatment and recovery in terms of privacy, security and appropriateness.”
Asked to elaborate on this statement, the GDA referred queries to the HSE adding: “This is still a work in progress and we are still preparing for our strategic plan.”
The CEO of the Grangegorman Development Plan, Gerry Murphy said: “The aim is to create an integrated development on the 73-acre site focused around education and health but with a diverse mix of uses, in a manner that is sensitive to the context of the site, its surrounding neighbourhood, and the existing community.”
He said building on the replacement mental health facilities for the HSE was expected to commence in late 2009.
Once security fears have been addressed, the consensus among staff is that the development will be extremely positive for the hospital community and the college. The GDA has advertised for written submissions about the Strategic Plan with a closing date for submission Wednesday 18 June 2008.