Almost 700 residents died unexpectedly in nursing homes last year
Almost 700 unexpected deaths of older people in nursing homes last year should be investigated by the health watchdog, an advocacy group has claimed.
Latest figures from the health watchdog show that 697 people died unexpectedly in nursing homes, compared with 726 the previous year.
The Irish Patients' Association says the "unexpected deaths" each year are disturbing and are not receiving the attention they deserve and should be reviewed.
Stephen McMahon, director of the association, said: "We call on the Minister for Health in the public and residents' interests, to set up an independent review of these patient events that we have received from HIQA."
An unexpected death is defined as one that was not anticipated or occurred earlier than expected.
"What analysis has HIQA conducted on each of these events? Where adverse events did occur to living or dead residents have all of these been disclosed to the next of kin and or residents, family's or their advocates?" said Mr McMahon.
Nursing homes are required by law to notify unexpected deaths and other events to the Health Information and Quality Authority. The watchdog received 4,846 notifications in total, slightly up on the previous year.
The figures show a sharp increase in the number of notifications of suspected or confirmed allegations of abuse of a resident, with 899 reported last year, compared with 679 the previous year.
Nursing homes also reported: 227 outbreaks of notifiable disease; 182 cases of unexplained absences of a resident from the nursing homes; 104 allegations of misconduct by staff or by the nursing home provider; and 16 cases in which a staff member was the subject of a review by a professional body.
Mr McMahon said: "While each and every case may have a meaningful explanation of what and why such an event happened, each of these categories are a cause of concern, the numbers of unexpected deaths is 4.4 times the number road deaths in 2017, and look at the attention that road safety, and indeed air safety, give to each and every tragic event."
HIQA said the regulations require providers and persons in charge of designated centres to notify us of specified events. "This ensures HIQA is notified within specific time frames about certain incidents, events or changes within a centre." It says the notifications are reported in the Regulation Overview Report.
The notifications by nursing homes to the watchdog are separate to the 680 unsolicited complaints made to HIQA by members of the public and families last year - although some complaints are likely to overlap. The allegations included complaints of physical and sexual assault, filthy conditions, inadequate food, and a lack of care and compassion.