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Dáil hears case of boy left in windowless hospital room

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been urged to intervene in the case of a 14-year-old boy who has been left in a windowless room off a hospital emergency department in Co Kerry for the last 56 days.

The child is among those impacted by failings in the North Kerry Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), with the HSE last year apologising for deficits in care he received, including the inappropriate prescribing of heavy anti-psychotic medication.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil how he was “very sorry” to hear of what the teenager had experienced, after the case was raised by Sinn Féin TD for Kerry, Pa Daly.

“There is serious concern among health staff and community in Kerry about the situation, the disgraceful situation of a 14-year-old boy. He has been existing for 56 days in a windowless room off the emergency department in a hospital in Kerry. A room without a bed,” Mr Daly said.

“He is a former CAMHS patient. He had, I’m told by his mother, ADHD and moderate autism. But he was put on anti-psychotic medication when he was eight years old. He has received an apology for the deficits in his care. But he has long-term side effects as a result of this medication,” he added.

Mr Daly called for the boy’s care to be prioritised and a suitable short-term residential care placement be found.

“It is not the responsibility of University Hospital Kerry. There is, I believe, a human rights violation because disability services have not acted. You would think that he’d be prioritised, and you would think that he’d be fast-tracked to get the help he deserves and he needs. But instead he is in a windowless room off the emergency department.”

He added: “Will you step in to ensure he receives immediate residential short-term treatment, close to home, not 300km away, so that his mother can visit him as often as she wishes?”

Mr Varadkar expressed regret at details of the case and intimated he would help insofar as he possibly could.

‘I’m very sorry to hear about that case. I’m sorry to hear what that man has to experience and his family too,” he said.

“The Health Act, for very good reasons, makes it unlawful for me or any minister to direct the HSE to do anything for any particular patient. That wouldn’t be right for all sorts of reasons. But if you want to send on the details, and permission from the family to take an interest in the case, I’ll certainly do that,” said Mr Varadkar.

In a statement to RTÉ, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said: “The HSE cannot comment on individual cases. We regret that any child is in an Emergency Department for a prolonged period. In all such circumstances the HSE endeavours to work with all relevant stakeholders including the child’s family, to ensure that they receive appropriate care and intervention.”

The boy’s case was raised in the Dáil as the HSE finalises a review of 300 files relating to patients at North Kerry CAMHS in November 2022.

The executive has in recent weeks apologised to families for the treatment their children received at North Kerry CAMHS, with a final report due to be presented to the Government at the end of March.

In 2022, the Maskey Review found how 46 children suffered significant harm due to the treatment they received at South Kerry CAMHS, with 220 young people exposed to the risk of significant harm.

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