My name is Mary O’Sullivan.
My daughter suffers from severe
anorexia nervosa. We live in Kerry and my husband and I are
extremely worried and feel that our daughter desperately needs
specialised treatment. We were talking to our GP, but unfortunately
she doesn’t know too much about this condition and about what eating
disorder treatments are available in Ireland.
So I decided in September 2006 to take things into my own hands. I
went to the internet and found the Bodywhys website.
First I rang Bodywhys – the national eating disorder association -
themselves and asked for any information about treatment programmes
for eating disorders in Ireland.
‘They don’t have any’, I was told. They have a helpline and some
support groups, brochures and booklets about eating disorders, but
what kind of treatment programmes are available in this country
‘they don’t know’.
I must say I was a bit surprised talking to someone of the national
eating disorder organisation in Ireland and they don’t know what
kind of programmes are available in this country.
Then I decided to ring the 3 specialised hospitals in Dublin listed
on the Bodywhys website.
First I rang St. Vincent in Dublin. I was lucky to meet a nice girl
and we had a long talk. She said that an eating disorder treatment
us such doesn’t exist. But they would have 3 beds for eating
disorder patients - public only.
2 nurses -one full time and 1 part time.
a social worker
a part time dietician
The consultant Dr. Darby has now retired. There is a locum for 6
months and then hopefully the new consultant will cover eating
disorders only. Up to now the consultant there treated not just
eating disorders but everything else also that was in the unit. I
asked if they would have any information on the internet.
’Nothing on the Internet’, I was told. I asked if they would not
consider putting up some info there so that prospective patients and
their families could see what they have to offer and also see the
type of programme that is there.
I asked about an info brochure as I wanted to let my daughter see
the type of programme available, but she said that they have no
brochure or literature available for the public. Their info booklet
is for the consultant only to go over with the patient when she is
admitted. They don’t want to give it out first in case patients
would be afraid of what was in front of them( I wonder how much they
believe themselves in their programme , if there is any ) .
However the girl offered to see if there was an old one available
and she would also ask nurses if they had any info available. I have
received nothing so far. She also said that there was no government
funding and the first question I was asked was 'had I VHI'. She told
me that St.Vincent’s and other psychiatric hospitals were
amalgamating and patients moving to
I then rang St. Patrick’s. First call I just got a recording, there
was nobody there. Next time I rang I got Dr. Griffins secretary. She
said she would send me out a Booklet which I now have.
Fees - 415 euros per day for a period of 4 weeks average.
After that there is 415 euros per day day-care for 2 weeks, 3 days a
week then 2 days a week and so on.
When I asked how often Dr. Griffin saw the patients, I was told
about every two or three days. For how long I asked, ‘ it depends ‘.
When I asked if there is a one to one therapy in place, I was told
The costs in St. Patrick’s are 20,000 euros for the full programme,
which lasts aprox. 12 weeks.
I then rang John of Gods and once again first time I got a
recording. I then rang again and got the staff nurse.
They are open 1 yr last August in fact they have not had an official
They deal with adolescence 12 - 18 yrs. maybe go down to 11 yr old.
They have 3 Beds and the cost 901.-€ per day, only private. (I asked
the stuff nurse what did the 1.-,€ cover she laughed and said she
didn’t know). There are only private patients accepted( Bupa Ireland
is not covering any eating disorders at all , the VHI only covers,
if you are a member already and you have no medical record of eating
disorder symptoms for the last 5 years ). I asked her what if you
couldn’t afford that money ,she told me that you can pressurize your
health board and they have patients through the health boards, but
they are treated as private patients.( pressurizing a health board
can be a very frustrating process over years. Only reply on a
application form can take up to 3 months)
The average stay in John of Gods is about 3 1/2 to 5 months.
Consultant - David McNamara.
No info of programme on the Internet , and once again I asked why
not and would they not consider it helpful to patients and their
I was told to get info, I have to go to my GP , when I replied my GP
has no info either , I was told I have to go to my GP. When I said
that is not good enough, I got very reluctantly a sketchy info:
The programme is along the lines of - weight issues, regain weight,
therapy - groups, a dietician one period per week, 2 nurses as key
workers with the emphasis on regaining weight.
There is a senior consultant and a junior consultant, a social
All this info was so sketchy, that I even was not sure, if I was
talking to someone of a specialised eating disorder hospital.
I asked what happens at the end of the few months of treatment, and
I was told that patients are discharged back to their own area. I
said what happens if as in this area in Kerry they weren’t able to
do anything , what was the point of discharging someone back to the
same situation where there is no help available . The staff nurse
said maybe they would see my daughter in Dublin as an outpatient for
a while and then call in the people my daughter would be dealing
with in her own area and tell them what to do !!!!!!!!!
Sounds good doesn’t it.
And who can afford all those trips to Dublin!!!!!
If it was as simple as that all the people in all the areas of
Ireland would now be able to handle eating disorders and yet they
She told me that all this information is for adolescents only but
'upstairs' is a unit for the older patients. My daughter would be
according to them an older patient .The staff nurse couldn’t tell me
anything about this unit and when I asked her do they not have any
consultations and transfer of opinions and findings etc between the
two sections of their hospital, she said no, absolutely
none. I would have thought that sufferers from an eating disorder
would have a lot in common no matter what age and that info could be
gained if professionals worked together.
I was told then that they would not agree with units where there
were only eating disorder patients as they would compete with each
other. The units in John of Gods deal with all kinds of mental
All this information was so vague, that even now while I am writing
this down I am aware of, that all this can be very misleading.
I got the feeling, the people to whom I have spoken over the phone
had no interest whatsoever.
What can I say to my daughter?
I then rang St. Josephs – the 'Upstairs' of John of Gods.
1st call - Rang out, no answer.
2nd call - Rang out, no answer.
3rd call - Rang out, no answer.
4th call - Rang out, no answer.
5th call - Rang out, no answer.
So I got no info at all there, not even an answer to the phone. But
I must say that was the best info of them all. It was clear to me I
never would send my daughter into a hospital, where I couldn’t get
through to anybody.
In all that’s around 12 Beds covering the country. I said this to
the people I have spoken to and said doesn’t this really amount to
having no treatment for the thousands of sufferers. They agreed. If
you were a public patient there was only St. Vincent, so if you are
a public patient there are only 3 beds for the whole country. The
girl in St. Vincent told me that the time you spent on the waiting
list depends on the severity of the patients in the hospital at the
time you were waiting and those in front of you on the list. As a
‘severe’ case was put in front of you on the list you could be
waiting a long time to get in.
It crossed my mind, that maybe my daughter has to die first to be
finally admitted. What a bizarre thought for a mother! What a
hopeless situation for my daughter, who needs help!
That would appear to be the sum of eating disorder treatments
available in this country after 3 hours making desperate phone calls
- not much is it?
I must say I am utterly confused , I don’t know what to do , I don’t
know how to find help for my daughter.
If I wanted to find a hotel for example anywhere on this planet, I
can get streams of information within half an hour, but to find out
what kind of eating disorder treatments are available in Ireland and
if they would suit my daughter and her needs I am knocking on closed
I took things into my own hands in September 2006, because my
daughter really needs help. But I almost regret it now, we are left
with less hope than we had before.
There is no therapy available here in Kerry, but what really is
there in Dublin?
No Bodywhys and nobody to whom I spoke of the 3 specialised
hospitals could give me any clear information. Maybe there is an
eating disorder treatment available in Ireland, which would help my
daughter, but how can I find out?
I am extremely worried, how must then my daughter feel?
She needs help right now. How much worse does she has to get to be
justified for a waiting list?
I begin to wonder, if all those consultants have children too.
I want to share this difficult experience with you all, who are
going through the same trauma.
I am sorry that I have nothing really helpful to tell.
I only can hope and pray, that when you try to find help and support
in this country you may find more understanding and respect for
yourselves and for your suffering children!
My heart goes out to you all