Care home residents had to wait 15 hours for food, report reveals
Residents of a care home were forced to go without food for 15 hours and some had meals hurriedly spoon-fed to them by staff, an inspectors' report has revealed.
The practices were found in the HSE-run Aras Attracta home in Swinford, Co Mayo, which cares for 97 adults with intellectual disabilities.
Inspectors were acting on tip-offs from whistleblowers and reports of the death of a resident whose case has yet to come before the coroner's court to determine cause of death.
Albert Loughney (72), from Crossmolina in Co Mayo, was taken to Mayo General Hospital where he died on November 18, 2012.
Gardai last night confirmed that an investigation into his death was ongoing.
Inspectors who made an announced visit in February were shocked at the scenes during mealtimes, with some residents visibly underweight.
Noel Giblin, national secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses' Association (PNA), said as "far back as 2010" the union held public meetings to highlight staff concerns about the unit.
The Labour Relations Commission agreed that an independent review should be commissioned. However, its findings that the unit was seriously understaffed "were ignored by management", he said.
Inspectors found the residents had their supper between 7pm and 7.30pm but did not eat again until breakfast at 10am to 10.30am the next day to allow staff to wash and shower them first.
"Inspectors observed some residents being offered spoonfuls of food in quick succession by some staff members before they had swallowed and enjoyed the previous spoonful. One staff member stood over a resident while assisting with their meal," the report from the watchdog Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) said. On the inspection day, some residents were not offered any drink with their meal and food was cold.
Some staff did not speak to residents and several were assisted "in silence".
"Inspectors observed one staff member assisting a resident in a very 'undignified way'," the report found.
Some residents who were underweight were prescribed supplements or high calorie diets but there was no evidence of these on their daily record sheets.
"Inspectors were so concerned about meals and the mealtime experience they requested the person in charge to observe," inspectors said. "She described it as 'enlightening, difficult and distressing'."
A follow-up inspection in late May found the home has acted on recommendations and the residents' mealtimes had "improved significantly" with evidence of respect for their dignity and independence.
Agency workers were employed to increase staff numbers but they were still inadequate in one area. Some residents had to wait a long time before getting their meal.
In response the HSE said yesterday that after the HIQA visit it "undertook immediate remedial action".
Daily diet record sheets are being maintained and residents are receiving appropriate modified diets. Improved management and staff training system is in place.
Across the country such disability centres are now overseen by a new social care division and national standards are now being finalised.