Special investigation: Nursing homes at centre of new abuse scandals
Elderly patients make litany of shocking allegations against staff at care facilities
Published 12/04/2010 | 05:00
SHOCKING instances of abuse and serious lapses in care at nursing homes have been revealed in HSE files obtained as part of an Irish Independent investigation into care for the elderly.
The documents show how major problems persist in both public and private facilities despite extensive efforts to improve standards in the aftermath of the Leas Cross scandal five years ago.
The revelations come less than a year after Health Minister Mary Harney conceded she could not guarantee a similar nursing home scandal would not happen again, but that tightened regulations would mean it would be detected sooner.
Although the prevalence of very serious complaints is slightly less than it was in previous years, a significant number of issues continue to be detected.
- Instances of physical abuse of residents.
- Residents going missing or being allowed to wander out of nursing homes unsupervised.
- Instances where patients' conditions deteriorated rapidly after admission to a nursing home.
- Allegations of theft from residents.
- Cases where pressure sores were allowed to develop.
In one case, a nurse resigned from a Cork nursing home after she jabbed a resident in the chest with a scissors during a confrontation between the two.
In a number of homes, residents were made to wear incontinence pads, despite not needing them.
In another case a resident of a Co Galway nursing home was left to struggle in a bathroom for up to 25 minutes after a fall. She claimed to have repeatedly rung a bell seeking assistance. But staff said the bell never rang.
The woman was taken to hospital "in a very distressed and painful state" the following day as a result of the fall.
Her family also complained they were not immediately informed about her fall.
The HSE refused to disclose information about a complaint at a Co Sligo facility. But the incident led to staff having to receive training on anger management and elder abuse.
Staff at a Co Cork nursing home were found to have breached the confidentiality of a resident by sharing information about the patient's care with someone it shouldn't have been discussed with.
Another Cork nursing home faced complaints after a resident was involved in repeated falls. An investigation found that five falls had been documented in three months, while there was also evidence other falls took place but were not documented.
The findings were contained in reports on 145 complaints made to the HSE regarding care in the first six months of last year.
A fifth of these complaints were upheld, while a further 8pc were partially upheld.
A number of nursing homes were the subject of multiple complaints.
Responsibility for investigations and inspections has since been passed to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), which now routinely publishes inspection reports on its website.
HIQA's highest profile intervention since taking over came last month when it got an interim district court order to deregister Glenbervie Nursing Home in Bray, Co Wicklow, after serious concerns were raised for the health and welfare of its residents.
Commenting on the Irish Independent investigation, Nursing Homes Ireland said in a statement that "any substantiated complaint against a nursing home or its staff is unacceptable".
The organisation, which represents two-thirds of the country's 450 private and voluntary nursing homes, said it was pleased that very serious cases now appeared to be less prevalent than before.
It also defended the sector, saying "the vast majority of nursing home care is of a high standard" and that care facilities were now regularly inspected by HIQA.
The organisation said it was running regular training courses for its members in areas like care planning, medication management, handling of complaints and managing neurological conditions.