Residents in HSE nursing home left for month or more without a bath or shower
Residents in a HSE-run nursing home were forced to go for a month or more without a shower or bath because of staff shortages, a report reveals.
Some elderly people also suffered the indignity of dying in old-style wards with only a thin curtain for privacy.
A litany of problems at the St Patrick's Community Hospital in Summerhill, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, was described last night as "absolutely unacceptable".
The four-unit building, which dates from 1841, is home to 82 residents over the age of 65 years, some of whom have dementia or are receiving palliative care.
Inspectors sent into the home for two days last March by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) discovered:
Fire safety equipment was missing and evacuation plans were not in place.
Some residents had fallen repeatedly and were not adequately protected from further injury.
A number of patients were in bed all day because of a lack of appropriate seating equipment.
And medication practices were not adequately supervised.
Shockingly, the inspectors said that "personal care such as showers and baths were not frequently offered to residents".
The general practice was to off a shower once every two weeks - however, this did not always happen.
"Inspectors found that on occasions when residents had declined the offer of a bath or shower, or if there was no staff available on that particular day, residents had not received a shower or bath for a month or more," Hiqa said.
They found there were only three dining room tables and five chairs available for 12 residents in a male ward area.
Water temperature was also too hot at 49 degrees.
While inspectors noted the residents were treated with respect and kindness by staff, the privacy and dignity of residents was affected by having to live in dormitory-style bedrooms.
Even people who were dying continued to be mostly cared for in these rooms with the only privacy provided by a light curtain around their beds.
"Visitors and staff had full view of all residents, including residents near the end of life and their family members as they walked through wards," said the report.
There were not sufficient staff with the right skills, qualifications and experience to meet the assessed needs of residents.
In response to an action plan set out by Hiqa, the HSE said it has taken a number of measures including updating evacuation plans and training for staff. Additional staff are being recruited to allow residents bathe regularly.
Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications in Age Action Ireland, told the Irish Independent the report makes for "distressing reading": "The results of this inspection clearly show what happens when there are insufficient funds to support long-term care and a failure to plan for our growing older population."