HC Deb 22 July 1897 vol 51 cc712-4

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether any and what steps are being taken to check the spread of beri-beri in the Richmond Lunatic Asylum? Is he aware that the disease originates in long overcrowding, and that, though the Inspectors of Lunatics as far back as 1891 made a special report to the Governors, complaining that the Board of Control had taken no action to meet in any way the urgent requirements of the institution, with its vast population, for increased accommodation, nothing has been done to meet the requirements beyond the erection of a few wooden sheds at the Richmond Asylum and a few temporary structures at Portrane, both condemned as insanitary and insufficient by Dr. Manson and Sir Thornley Stoker; and whether the first section of the permanent structure which the Board of Control is erecting at Portrane will not be available till March 1899; and, if so, what steps will be taken in the meantime to relieve the congestion?


The outbreak of beri-beri in the Richmond Asylum has been fostered by overcrowding, consequent on the rapid increase in the number of patients. Steps have been taken to meet this overcrowding by erecting temporary accommodation at the asylum, and also at Portrane, county Dublin. The patients attacked have, as far as possible, been isolated, and the buildings occupied by them bave been disinfected. The present outbreak is, so far, of a very mild type. There has been only one death attributed to it, and the general death-rate of the institution was never lower. The disease, though fostered by over-crowding, does not, it is believed, originate de novo from that cause, at least in this climate. The inspectors of lunatics did not make any complaint in 1891 that the Board of Control had taken no action to meet the urgent requirements of the institution for increased accommodation; but in their first memorandum of inspection they called the special attention of the Board of Governors to the overcrowding, and discussed the question of how increased accommodation could best be provided. Consequent on the reports of the inspectors numerous conferences were held between the Board of Control and the Board of Governors, and it was ultimately decided to build a new and fully-equipped asylum to accommodate 1,200 patients at Portrane. This asylum is now in course of erection, and it is anticipated that the first portion of it will be ready for the reception of patients in about 12 months. In addition, temporary accommodation has been provided at the Richmond Asylum for 298 patients, and at Portrane for 224, and further buildings are now being erected, which, it is anticipated, will make the total accommodation sufficient for the numbers at present in the asylum. The inspectors state that they are of opinion that these temporary buildings have been erected with the greatest care, and with every precaution that sanitation requires, and that they are similar to those erected recently at the London County Asylums to provide temporary accommodation.


asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would consider the desirability of getting a specialist to examine into and report upon this strange disease or whether the right hon. Gentleman had already obtained the opinion of a specialist with regard to it?


I am under the impression that a specialist did visit the asylum, and did report upon the disease, but the actual cause and origin of the outbreak still remains obscure.


asked whether that document was public property?


I am not quite certain on the point, but I will make inquiries with regard to it.

MR. EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)

asked whether it was not the fact that there were in the asylum several hundred more lunatics than the building could conveniently hold?


No doubt there is over-crowding in the asylum, and all possible means are being taken to reduce that over-crowding.