Nursing home owner tries to block release of HSE reports
A NURSING home owner is taking a High Court action to block the release of HSE investigation reports to the Irish Independent.
Maureen Flanagan, the proprietor of Upton House Nursing Home in Clara, Co Offaly, is seeking to overturn a decision by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC), which ruled that seven reports relating to complaints against the home could be published.
Ms Flanagan has been resisting the release of the reports for almost a year. They relate to complaints against the nursing home between August 2007 and May 2009.
The Irish Independent first sought access to the reports under Freedom of Information rules in September last year. However, after the Health Service Executive (HSE) decided last November to make the reports public, Ms Flanagan threatened it with legal action.
In correspondence seen by the Irish Independent, Ms Flanagan claimed the release of the reports would be defamatory of her personally and of Sorta Ltd, the company through which she runs the home.
She also warned she would institute proceedings against the HSE, claiming substantial damages, if the reports were put into the public domain.
Ms Flanagan subsequently appealed the HSE decision to the OIC. After deliberating on the matter for six months, the OIC ruled in June that the reports could be released in the public interest.
Ms Flanagan was given eight weeks within which she could lodge an appeal against the OIC decision. A notice of motion was filed in the High Court last Friday, the day the deadline was due to expire.
Court records show Ms Flanagan plans to appeal against the OIC decision on a point of law. The case has been listed for mention on October 18.
It will be the second time in little over a year that matters relating to the nursing home have come before the courts.
In July 2009, the nursing home lodged a District Court appeal against a HSE decision to attach conditions to its registration.
Ms Flanagan's son, James, a barrister, applied to Tullamore District Court to have the hearing held in private.
However, the application was rejected by Judge Conal Gibbons, who said it would be inappropriate, incorrect and unlawful for proceedings to be held in secret.
Set up in 1975, the nursing home has a capacity for 24 residents. The most recent inspection report published by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), from September last year, said that over half of the 15 residents were of high dependency.
The report added that arrangements in place for healthcare provision were inadequate. The fabric of the building was found to be in poor repair and major refurbishment was recommended.
Infection control systems were not seen as adequate, while the decor of the premises and the equipment provided were not deemed to be of an acceptable standard.
The report noted that the nursing home did not comply with 17 separate regulatory requirements and issued recommendations in relation to these.
Despite these criticisms, residents told HIQA inspectors they were satisfied with life there. The inspectors also found evidence of some good practice in the areas of nursing care.