Saturday 18 November 2017

Dying man suffered vile abuse at hands of carer

Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd. Photo: Tom Burke
Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd. Photo: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A dying nursing home resident was subjected to vile verbal abuse by one of his carers, according to a whistle-blower complaint made to the health watchdog.

The care home employee called the resident "a fat c**t", a former colleague told the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) in an official complaint.

The same care worker is also alleged to have thrown water at another elderly resident with dementia, remarking: "That fairly shut you the f*** up, didn't it."

The shocking allegations are among 124 complaints received by HIQA in relation to nursing homes in the five months between June and October last year.

Complaint records released under freedom of information rules indicate significant issues remain in some nursing homes, despite a host of scandals in the past decade.

Key issues highlighted by whistle-blower staff, nursing home residents and their relatives include chronic understaffing in some homes and basic failures to ensure the safety of frail residents.

Several instances are cited in the complaints where residents received injuries in falls because they were left unattended due to inadequate staffing.

Another common complaint was that elderly residents were unable to understand foreign care workers due to their limited command of English.

Details of the complaints were released under freedom of information rules to Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd.

It is unclear to what extent the allegations have been investigated, as HIQA does not have the power to probe specific allegations.

However, complaints can trigger immediate inspections.

A spokeswoman said there were 56 single issues and triggered inspections in nursing homes last year.

HIQA said it could also take other courses of action, such as seeking assurances from nursing home operators or requesting internal investigations by nursing home providers.

If serious enough, complaints can also be referred to the HSE, the Ombudsman or An Garda Siochána.

In the case of the allegedly abusive care worker, a colleague who contacted HIQA said they had resigned in frustration after no action was taken when concerns were voiced to the nursing home's management.

The HIQA spokeswoman said she could not comment on this individual case, but said all situations where a crime may have been committed are passed to gardaí.

Mr O'Dowd, who has been campaigning for improved standards in care homes for several years, said HIQA needed to clarify what action was taken in this case.

"What was alleged in this case was particularly appalling," he said.

"Inhuman treatment of a dying person was alleged here, which is absolutely unacceptable and a crime in my view. It should be investigated by gardaí."

The TD said that whatever administration is formed in the coming weeks should make putting a stop to the abuse of the elderly a key part of their programme for government.

"This should be item number one on the desk of the new minister for health," he said.

Another care worker claimed they were sacked after raising concerns over staffing levels and hygiene in the home where they worked.

In another home, HIQA was informed just one nurse and two care assistants had to supervise 63 residents, even though most were considered high dependency.

In yet another home, it was alleged one nurse and one care assistant had to monitor two buildings.

Other complaints included an allegation that a bed-bound resident with bedsores in one home was left soiled and unwashed overnight.

In a separate home, it was alleged an elderly resident died from a fall after being left in the dark with no lights on following a dispute with their nurse.

Irish Independent

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