Garda start probe into care home abuse claims
Gardai have launched a criminal investigation into allegations that residents in a centre for intellectual disability in Co Longford were physically and verbally assaulted by a staff member, in the latest controversy to hit the health service.
The allegations are understood to centre on a residential unit for adults with intellectual disability, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
It is understood that the investigation was launched last Friday after detectives received complaints concerning suspected injuries to residents there.
Detectives have taken statements from staff and management at the unit and are also expected to talk to the families of the residents in the coming days.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed to the Sunday Independent last night that an investigation is underway in an unnamed unit in Co Longford and that families had been informed.
It said that "protective measures" had been taken to "ensure the welfare of clients and residents."
It is understood that the health watchdog, Hiqa, has also been informed about the allegations.
Garda sources said that the investigation was in its very early stages, and detectives are hoping to speak to as many witnesses as possible to see if there is evidence to substantiate the allegations.
The HSE declined to comment on the nature of the complaints under investigation in the Co Longford centre.
In a statement, it said it has "commenced an investigation following recent complaints relating to a unit in Co. Longford. The appropriate statutory authorities have been notified, and investigations are ongoing.
"The HSE has been in contact with the families and is supporting the clients affected.
"The HSE has ensured that all protective measures to ensure the welfare of our clients and residents are in place, and until investigations are complete into the alleged incident/s, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment."
The investigation is being launched against a backdrop of growing concern over the resourcing at care centres and residential homes following a series of scandals, most notably that concerning Áras Attracta, in Co Mayo.
An undercover report on Prime TIme by the RTÉ Investigations Unit in December 2014 showed some residents at a unit in Áras Attracta being force fed, slapped, kicked, physically restrained and shouted at.
Following a Garda investigation, six people are facing charges of alleged assault. Last week, the health watch dog, Hiqa, issued a notice of a proposal to cancel the registration for one of the units, despite the management's attempts to restructure the centre.
Meanwhile, two separate Hiqa reports have revealed further serious concerns over disability service standards. Earlier this year, it emerged that gardai were reviewing 700 complaints in residential care homes for the disabled and in nursing homes for the elderly.
The huge volume of complaints were forwarded to gardai for review by Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, who got the information under the Freedom of Information Act.
Other documents released under FOI to a newspaper in June showed that more than 20 staff at HSE homes for people with severe intellectual disabilities have been suspended or sacked since January 2014 over physical, financial and sexual abuse claims - separate to any proceedings relating to the Áras Attracta scandal.