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Monday 24 July 2017

Workers turned whistleblower over care fears

Conor Kane, Fiona Ellis and Eilish O'Regan

STAFF at a nursing home threatened with closure over safety risks turned whistleblower when they became concerned about standards of care.

Avondale Nursing Home in Callan, Co Kilkenny, is now being run by the Health Service Executive (HSE) after an interim court order for its closure was obtained by a safety watchdog.

It emerged yesterday that 14 staff, including care assistants -- some of whom had been employed there for years -- left in the past six months.

Several made complaints to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), which obtained the interim order for closure on Thursday.

Eleven elderly people were still living at the home and the HSE began the process of finding alternative care for them yesterday. Attempts to contact the proprietor Miriam Holmes were unsuccessful last night.

Maria Ronan, whose uncle has lived at the home for the past 10 years, said she had her own concerns about the facility before HIQA's move.

"I rang HIQA myself about six weeks ago. I didn't know if anyone else had complaints about them," she revealed as she visited her uncle Billy Ronan from Ballykeeffe in Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny.

"I'm almost relieved that he (her uncle) is being moved. But for Billy's sake, that's his home and he's going to be upset."

She recalled a worrying incident when her uncle fell out of bed and hurt his hand.

Injury

"I got a phone call on a Sunday night to say he had fallen out of bed and they didn't know how long he had been there. I did not hear anything more until the next morning, when she (the owner Ms Holmes) said he was fine."

However, he ended up having a number of hospital visits as a result of his hand injury and it caused him a lot of pain.

It is understood Ms Holmes told some relatives that "temporary" transfers were being organised as the nursing home was to be renovated.

"Miriam rang me and she was insisting it was only for a few weeks," Ms Ronan said.

Community care manager with the HSE Breda Kavanagh said it was "definitely" a surprise to the families when they realised their loved ones would be moved. "There was a lot of concern because there was a lot of uncertainty," she said.

The nursing home is likely to be shut in two weeks, although the owners have the right to legally challenge the final closure order.

Irish Independent

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