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Family of woman 'try to force their way into nursing home and hand her drugs'

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Family members of a homeless woman with an incurable illness and a history of drug addiction tried to force their way into her nursing home last weekend, with one allegedly passing illegal drugs to her, the High Court has heard.

The woman was taken the following day to a hospital emergency department with chest pains but, although the hospital now wants to discharge her because of Covid-19, the nursing home will not take her back because of her family's conduct, Mr Justice Peter Kelly was told.

Nursing home staff had, in line with visitor restrictions due to coronavirus concerns, refused entry to members of the woman's family at the weekend. But the family members were forceful with staff and tried to gain entry and one passed a jumper containing illicit drugs to her through a window, said Katherine Kelleher, solicitor for the HSE.

GardaĆ­ were called, but the family members had left by the time they arrived.

The family are "notorious" in their area for involvement in crime, and appear to be of the view the courts are not sitting and they can act "with impunity" as a result, she added.

The HSE is trying to find another nursing home to take the woman, who is middle-aged with several heath conditions, including chronic pulmonary disease and a recently diagnosed chronic incurable illness, said Ms Kelleher.

Ms Kelleher sought various orders under the court's wardship jurisdiction.

If the woman contracted Covid-19, a doctor had said it was very unlikely she would survive, she added.

Mr Justice Kelly said he wanted to make clear the courts were sitting and, if there was any repetition of such behaviour, those involved "will find that out very quickly indeed". What happened was "shocking" and "really disgraceful", he said.

The court can invoke its wardship jurisdiction only if there was evidence of a lack of capacity but, in the current climate, doctors could not be expected to attend court.

The judge directed a medical visitor should assess her capacity and appointed a guardian ad litem to represent her interests.

He also authorised her discharge from the hospital when she is deemed clinically fit, and for her transfer to another nursing home when such a placement is found.

Any nursing home contacted about taking the woman will have to be fully informed what happened at the previous nursing home and of court orders aimed at ensuring no repetition of that conduct, he directed. Those orders include ones restraining the family members from visiting the woman and permitting the HSE not to inform them of her whereabouts.

Irish Independent