The 180-year old mental health ward in St Fintan’s Hospital Portlaoise, recommended to close five years ago by the Mental Health Commission, has instead got a €660,000 upgrade.
The renovation of the outdated Ward 6 is however a temporary measure, until a modern 40 bed psychiatric unit is built.
Funding is not yet allocated for the new €6m unit.
The Victorian era psychiatric ward can now accommodate 26 patients. Many of them are elderly and living there for some years.
The HSE confirmed the upgrade which gives patients more privacy and cheerier surroundings.
“Ward 6 works are completed and occupied. This renovated facility can accommodate up to 26 long stay mental health residences. The renovation works cost approximately €660,000,” a spokesperson said.
However the HSE said it is merely an interim measure until the new building opens.
“The renovated ward is in line with recommendation of the Mental Health Commission under the consideration that this is a interim facility until the new unit is complete,” the HSE said.
In 2011 a report by the Mental Health Commission ordered the “expeditious closure” of the ward, noting that it was the only old psychiatric institution still increasing bed numbers in Ireland.
The planned new 40 bed residential unit for elderly patients with psychiatric illness is expected to cost €6 million to build, with the money still not approved.
“The new 40 bed Mental Health residential unit on the lands of St Fintan’s Hospital in Portlaoise is under consideration for inclusion in the HSE’s Capital Programme 2017 – 2021 and is subject to the availability of funding.
The proposed unit has been granted Planning Permission and we are at current working through pre-tender design and cost plan,” the HSE said.
It was first expected to be built and opened by 2015, on the expansive St Fintans campus on the Dublin road in Portlaoise.