Wednesday 11 December 2019

Footage of care nurse slapping non-verbal resident away is played in court

Joan Walsh
Joan Walsh

Caroline Crawford

FOOTAGE of a nurse slapping away a non-verbal resident who was seeking her attention has been played in court today.

Joan Walsh (42) Carrowilkeen, Curry Co Sligo is charged with assault against a resident of Bungalow 3 in Aras Attracta on November 15, 2014.

Ms Walsh, who was the nurse in charge of Bungalow 3 was seen slapping Miss B on the hand as she shows a colleague something on her phone.

She is also seen on camera lifting the same resident away from another member of staff as she tried to get attention, before dropping her into a floor.

She told the court she regretted the incident describing it as "poor practice and poor judgement".

Ms Walsh said she had no recollection of the incident until she watched it on camera.

"I regret it, it's not something I would do, in hindsight I'd like to think I would do things very differently," she said.

She said all staff had been very fond of Miss B, who had been at Aras Attracta since it opened.

Martin Maguire, a clinical nurse specialist attached to Aras Attracta said the actions of Ms Walsh were "unacceptable". He said he had known Ms Walsh for 20 years describing her as a "competent nurse". He said he was surprised by what he had seen on the Prime Time Investigates programme.

The court heart that Miss B has a severe intellectual disability, is non-verbal and has been in care her entire life.

The court heard that Ms Walsh was coming to the end of a 12 hour shift when the incident caught on camera occurred.

It also emerged that Ms Walsh, who has been a nurse for 16 years, working in Aras Attracta since 2000, had asked for her hours to be cut just days before the recorded incident.

She told the court she had raised concerns about resources at the unit on the morning of the incident. She said she had found working conditions very stressful.

Counsel for Ms Walsh said her actions did not constitute an assault.

The case against another care worker accused of assault at Aras Attracta has been stalled after a rulling by the judge that it must be heard in full before another judge.

Anna Ywunong Botsimbo (34) Low Park Avenue, Charlestown Co Mayo is facing one charge of assault at Bungalow 3, Aras Attracta in Swinford Co Mayo.

Evidence had been heard in the case yesterday. However, this morning Judge Mary Devins said that following details of a garda memo put before the court yesterday she could no longer hear the case.

Judge Devins said two answers included in the memo of a garda interview with Ms Botsimbo, "involved a complainant who is mentioned in other cases".

"All of that is in my view and consideration this court is compromised.

Highly inappropriate for me to continue hearing the case of Ms Botsimbo," she said.

She requested that the entire matter be heard in full in front of another judge and put the matter back for mention in Ballina District Court on a date next month.

Meanwhile, a health care assistant who is seen pushing an elderly woman into a chair and hitting her with some paper went from being a domestic worker to caring for patients with no training.

Kathleen King (56) Knockshanvally Straide, Foxford in Co Mayo faces a single charge of assault against Miss C who has severe physical difficulties and the intellectual age of a two or three year old child.

She is seen on camera pushing Miss C back into an armchair and then hitting her on the face with a piece of paper. She can be heard saying: "Don't you dare come out of that chair".

Ms King was doing administration work, filling dietary charts while keeping "one eye" on Coronation Street, when the incident occurred, the court heard.

The defendant said she was trying to keep Miss C, who had severe osteoporosis, from sliding out of her chair onto the floor and suffering a possible injury.

"All I wanted to do was keep this poor woman on the chair to keep her safe, that's what I was trying to do.

"If she broke a hip I'd be in trouble and my job would be on the line and I really didn't want that to happen," she added.

When questioned about hitting Miss C with a sheet of paper, she said it was a "spontaneous reaction."

"I didn't even remember the incident with the A4 paper. I had it in my hand, it was just a reaction," she added.

She said she had been trying to "distract" Miss C but accepted it was poor judgement and bad practice adding: "I wish every day it didn't happen".

When pressed Ms King said she would "probably agree" that it was unacceptable but denied it was an assault.

Ms King accepted she was shouting in the footage but said separate residents need the television and radio on at a loud level.

It also emerged Ms King moved from a domestic assistant to a care assistant with no training. She did not have Fetac Level Five courses on care and communicating with patients, which was not mandatory at the time but is today.

"One day she was a domestic assistant, cleaning tidying and food preparation and the next she was a nursing assistant dealing with extremely vulnerable but extremely challenging residents," said Eoin Garavan, defence for Ms King.

The court heard Ms King had requested the necessary training course but was unable to take up a position offered due to a personal commitment. Mr Garavan told the court Ms King offered to pay for the course herself and made it clear to management that she was eager to have the training.

"I wanted to do this course. I felt I hadn't enough skills to do what I was doing, it was such a challenging environment," she said.

When asked by the prosecution what course she would have needed to tell her her actions were wrong, Ms King replied: "I'm sure there is no course".

It also emerged that 16 staff from Aras Attracta were in need to such training but the facility was informed by the college and the HSE that it could release eight staff at a time for training.

The court heard there was a number of litigations from members of staff after injuries sustained during the course of their work. One member of staff who had her nose broken by Miss A described Bungalow 3 as "the most stressful place" she had ever worked.

It also emerged that staff in Bungalow 3 had serious concerns for the safety of undercover reporter Caoimhe Delaney, believing her to be a student nurse.

"Staff had said they were terrified for the safety of Caoimhe Delaney as a student nurse.

"She needed to be minded as much as the residents. She was a young girl with no experience," Mr Garavan said. 

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