Thursday 19 April 2018

HSE inspector had bad feeling about creche visit, court told

HSE inspector Lorraine Potter
HSE inspector Lorraine Potter
Tiny Tots creche owner Hazel O'Mahony
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A HEALTH Service Executive official said she feared something bad was going to happen during a seven-hour inspection of a state-of-the-art creche.

The claim came as a HSE inspection team revealed seven babies were left unattended at the Tiny Tots Creche in Killeagh, Co Cork, as workers struggled to cope with being around 50pc below recommended staffing levels in some rooms.

HSE official Lorraine Potter said she had "a pain in (her) chest" during the inspection where she described the atmosphere as tense and the facility "a little chaotic".

The creche, which was only opened in 2008, was prosecuted for eight breaches under the Childcare (Preschool Services) Regulations 2006.

The creche has denied the eight breaches which were detailed by HSE inspectors Lorraine Potter and Eleanor Buckley during a visit on November 22, 2012.

Creche owner Hazel O'Mahony is vehemently contesting the prosecution before Midleton District Court and has denied substantial elements of the HSE claims.

The HSE allegations include that dirt and dust was found on radiators and children's toys within the creche, that children were not adequately supervised, that the creche door was left unlocked, that broken toys were in the outside garden and that food was left unrefrigerated.

The HSE also claims that cleaning products were left within reach of children.

Ms Buckley said that the creche should have had eight staff on duty to cope with the number of children that day.

Only five were present when the inspection team arrived.

Ms Buckley said that there were two staff in the baby room caring for nine infants. Subsequently, a tenth infant arrived.

When one staff member went on a lunch break, a single worker was caring for eight infants.

When she had to change one infant's nappy, there was no one present supervising the remaining seven babies.

She said three staff should have been there at all times.

Ms Buckley also said the creche had 37 children present when its insurance policy cites just 35 youngsters.

Ms Potter said they were informed on arrival at the creche at 10.20am on November 22 that six named staff were on duty. However, it emerged that five staff were present with a sixth person arriving after 11am.

"I had a feeling in my chest that something bad was going to happen," she said.

'REGIMENTED'

Frank Buttimer, counsel for Ms O'Mahony, said that the HSE had applied "an unbelievably regimented" approach to the inspection.

A staff member was sent home earlier that day with a vomiting bug and two parents had arrived with babies that needed unscheduled care.

He pointed out that the HSE had triggered one prosecution despite the fact the child space allowance involved was just 0.6 square metre below the recommended level.

A prosecution over food handling involved a sealed plastic box of cheese being left on a window sill for a short period of time.

Mr Buttimer also said that 30 parents would be offering testimonials as to the high standard of childcare at Tiny Tots.

The case, which is being heard before Judge John O'Neill, continues today.

Irish Independent

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