March 31, 2008

Mentally ill face 'discrimination' in accessing nursing homes

Ian McGuinness

Irish Medical Times

Elderly and mentally-ill patients are suffering 'petty discrimination' in getting access to nursing homes, a prominent psychiatrist has told the Irish Medical Organisation's Annual General Meeting.

Dr Siobhan Barry said that while other inpatients in general hospitals can avail of delayed discharge initiatives and get into nursing homes, this is not the case for older people with mental health problems. The south Dublin consultant said that such patients "have to go through a long and protracted rigamarole in terms of getting nursing home subventions".

She said it could take months for these psychiatric elderly patients to gain access to nursing homes.
However, Dr Ronan Collins, consultant geriatrician at Tallaght Hospital, challenged this argument as simplistic. He said it is not just older people with mental health problems, and psychiatric inpatients, who have problems accessing nursing home places.

Dr Collins said that it is hard to place geriatric inpatients with dementia, for example, in nursing homes. He explained: "I don't think this is a problem that is peculiar to psychiatric wards… I think discrimination exists across all types of older people with behavioural difficulties and dementia."

Dr Barry was speaking on a motion proposed by her on the topic. However, it was amended and passed by the delegates.

The amended motion read: 'The IMO draws attention to the petty discrimination in terms of nursing home access of hospitalised elderly people who are mentally ill and who have to wait inordinate periods of time to access appropriate residential care and calls on the HSE to rectify this as a matter of urgency.'