Elderly in home had €80k stolen by worker - claim
Gardaí are investigating claims that several elderly residents of a nursing home had their pensions stolen from them by a member of staff.
The probe was launched after the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) was notified of the allegations by the company running the private care centre.
The allegations relate to a care facility in Co Dublin and it is feared that between €80,000 and €100,000 was stolen from at least five elderly residents over a period of several years.
A number of residents with no next of kin had allowed the home to act as agents on their behalf to collect their pension entitlements.
However, it is understood irregularities in the administration of these funds were discovered in 2013 and it is feared substantial sums were diverted by a staff member for their own use.
The matter was reported to Hiqa by the care centre's owners. Hiqa in turn referred the issue to the gardaí.
"We reported the complaint to the gardaí and we told the gardaí we had serious concerns and requested that the matter be investigated," a Hiqa spokesman said.
A garda spokesman said an investigation is ongoing.
"On completion, a file will be forwarded to the Offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine what prosecution, if any, will apply," he said.
The person at the centre of the claims no longer works at the nursing home and is understood to be living abroad.
Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, who has been campaigning for tighter controls to safeguard against elder abuse, said the allegations must be fully investigated. "What is alleged here is very serious and, if true, amounts to a terrible breach of the trust these vulnerable, elderly residents placed in the nursing home," he said.
The Irish Independent understands that when the staff member was confronted by colleagues he initially denied any wrongdoing.
However, at a subsequent meeting he is said to have made a number of admissions.
It is understood further irregularities were uncovered after this, including the payment of wages to a fictitious staff member.
Concerns were also raised about payments supposedly made to suppliers, with evidence being uncovered that cheques had been made out to cash or to be paid to the staff member and a relative.
Hiqa has carried out several inspections of the nursing home. Its most recent unannounced inspection did not raise any major concerns about how the centre is being run.
The authority received over 430 complaints about nursing homes last year, including claims of assault. However, there were few allegations relating to financial abuse.