The Mental Health Commission (MHC) did not spend €1 million of its Department of Health allocation for 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Medical Independent (MI) has learned.
At its September 2020 board meeting, the minutes of which were seen by this newspaper, Chief Operations Officer Mr Simon Murtagh stated there had been a “significant underspend” in the funding from the Department.
“The majority of this arises from savings on travel and subsistence by staff and panel members due to Covid-19,” according to the minutes.
It was noted that the MHC’s executive was to examine how it could progress spending on projects which had been delayed due to Covid-19 and were part of the business plan.
The minutes also stated it was important for the Commission to see “what lessons can be learnt from the current savings to ascertain if some of the savings can be continued post the pandemic”.
An MHC spokesperson confirmed that the savings have continued since the September meeting.
“Approximately €1 million was saved and not drawn down from the Exchequer at the end of 2020,” the spokesperson told MI.
“The business pan for 2021 is being finalised and any areas identified where savings may occur due to Covid-19 will be utilised to further progress the strategic objectives of the MHC.”
At the time of the meeting, there were 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in approved mental healthcare centres, the majority of which were asymptomatic.
Data gathered by the MHC this year has shown a notable increase in suspected and confirmed cases.
From 31 December 2020 to 15 January 2021, the number of residents with confirmed cases of the virus increased from 15 to 61, and the number of staff members confirmed with the virus rose from 36 to 125.
The MHC has also released a statement saying it was “not assured that a specific, timebound Covid-19 vaccination plan for residents and staff of mental health centres has been developed and shared with stakeholders”.