THE State is "squandering" millions by stripping assets from psychiatric hospitals as mental health patients are forced to endure grossly inadequate living conditions, a major new report has found.
It also accuses the Government of breaking promises made two years ago to re-invest the lucrative proceeds from the sale of old style psychiatric hospitals and surrounding lands for vital new services for patients.
The report, seen by the Irish Independent, was compiled by the Irish Psychiatric Association and will be published today to mark the second anniversary of 'Vision for Change', the last government's blueprint for developing mental health services.
It was hoped the fall in psychiatric patients in institutional care from 20,000 half a century ago to the current level of 3,000 would free-up funds as valuable Victorian buildings became obsolete.
But the report has concluded that many of these patients have been transferred to the community. It reveals how, in some cases, these buildings and lands have now been altered for usage as private car parks or pitch and putt courses.
In other cases they have been refurbished and turned into offices for Health Service Executive (HSE) adminsitrative staff.
The report also highlights the ongoing wrangles over the prime 73 acres of land surrounding St Brendan's Hospital in Dublin and the "scandal" of shelving the long promised move of St Ita's Hospital in Portrane to a planned site in Beaumont Hospital .
The original site earmarked in Beaumont is now to be leased to a private hospital although St Ita's has been deemed no longer fit for purpose.
Conditions in some of these buildings are now so bad that some patients do not want to be treated in them because of the stigma involved.
The report has also uncovered nationwide examples of loss or diversion of these assets, about which there is little or no accountability.
Psychiatrist Dr Siobhan Barry, who compiled the report with colleagues Justin Brophy and Dermot Walsh, said the impact of all of this asset stripping is "the stagnation and non development of psychiatric services". The message is that the psychiatric services represent an easy target to meet shortfalls in other areas of the health services, she added.
The report accuses the political system of being "clearly complicit" in this process, either directly or "more often by silence and indifference".
At the heart is a discrimination against psychiatric services. Patients are unwilling to attend for services in stigmatised, outdated and substandard facilities.
"Effectively this means many patients get no treatment at all, but because of secondary stigmas the full extent and impact of this problem remains hidden."
The report found major political parties have presided over this process during the lifetime of several governments and various adminsitrative systems have also allowed it to proceed.
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