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Friday 23 February 2018

Dramatic rise in complaints of abuse at nursing homes

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

A RESIDENT of a nursing home was left to die alone and other elderly patients were threatened and bullied by staff in private care centres across the country.

Five years on from the Leas Cross scandal that shocked the public, these are among the complaints that were upheld by the HSE last year.

There was a dramatic rise in the number of complaints about the treatment of elderly people in private nursing homes, despite a number of high-profile, Government-sponsored initiatives.

Documents obtained by the Irish Independent under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the HSE received almost 150 complaints about such homes between January and June of last year.

That is a dramatic increase on the 160 that were dealt with in the whole of 2008 and the rise will worry Health Minister Mary Harney, who has been trying to overhaul the sector.

The HSE stopped accepting new complaints last July when responsibility was handed over to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

But in the six months prior to that, it investigated 145 grievances. A fifth of these were upheld, a further 8pc were partially or mainly upheld and another 12pc are still being investigated, either by the HSE internally or by HIQA.

Around 30pc of complaints, mainly those of the less serious variety, were resolved without the need for lengthy investigation, while a further 15pc were deemed unfounded or could not be proven.

Some nursing homes were the subject of several separate complaints, raising questions about the overall standard of care provided in them.

One home in Dublin was the subject of no less than 11 complaints. One of these was from a family who were unhappy with the care a deceased relative had received. The matter is still being investigated.

Another nursing home, in Co Meath, was investigated in relation to four complaints. While an allegation of sexual assault was not upheld, claims that staff were rough with residents are still being investigated.


A Sligo nursing home was the subject of allegations of physical and verbal abuse of residents. Staff were subsequently forced to receive anger-management training.

A member of staff at a Co Galway nursing home was found to have bullied a resident. It was not revealed what disciplinary action, if any, had been taken.

A resident at another home in Galway was allowed go unattended to the bathroom when someone should have been with them at all times. It was alleged that the lack of supervision led to a nasty fall.

An elderly male resident was allowed wander unsupervised out of a home in the north-west. The man's daughter only learned of the incident when informed by a neighbour.

A Co Clare home was investigated in connection with four complaints. Three of these related to the attitude of staff and the other concerned the quality of food provided.

A complaint of assault and verbal abuse of a resident by another patient was partially upheld at a Co Wicklow home.

In Kilkenny, a nursing-home resident was allowed go missing and was found to have locked himself in a laundry press. An investigation into abuse of residents at another home in the county is ongoing.

Relatives of a resident at a Co Wexford home received an apology after they had made allegations of negligence against staff.

Another home in the county was subject to two complaints. Snacks were being provided to patients at the home on paper towels, rather than crockery. It was also alleged that instead of washing a patient, staff just used a deodorant spray.

Investigators found that a patient in a Co Cork nursing home was alone when she died and that there were only two staff members on duty.

Staff at another home in Cork were found to have breached patient confidentiality.

A number of complaints were all upheld against a third Cork nursing home. These included instances in which residents had been allowed to fall over, receiving cuts and bruises to their heads.

The home was also found to have a lack of hot-water controls in its showers.

Irish Independent

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