A FORMER care worker who claims she was unfairly dismissed from her job for striking an elderly patient said when she saw him later that day she just wanted to "cuddle" him.
Imelda Cooke-Daly told an Employment Appeals Tribunal when she saw Tom O'Brien, who was in his 80s, in the day room of the nursing home at lunchtime his face was "destroyed".
She said she had noticed a "tiny" mark, no bigger than the thumbnail of her small finger, when she was washing Mr O'Brien earlier that morning but didn't feel the need to report it to the nurse.
Ms Cooke-Daly from Ballincrossig, Causeway, Co Kerry, had been employed as a care assistant at Aras Mhuire Nursing Home in Listowel, Co Kerry for five years but was suspended from her duties on November 1, 2011 following an incident where Mr O'Brien - who was also blind - alleged he had been slapped by the woman washing him.
She said: "The next time I saw him in the day room at 12pm his whole left side of the face was a mess. Something definitely happened to the man that morning but it was not me.
"I had never in the five years I was there seen the man so bad. I couldn't describe how bad he was. You'd just want to cuddle him. My heart went out to him."
Ms Cooke-Daly says when she asked Mr O'Brien if the mark on his face was sore after she had noticed it while washing him, he became agitated and starting roaring saying, "She hit me, she slapped me."
She alerted another care assistant, Breda Fitzmaurice, who was in the same room attending to another patient. She told the tribunal she was shocked by what she saw and immediately went for the nurse.
Ms Fitzmaurice said the injury had not deteriorated by lunchtime except that it wasn't as red.
Director of nursing, Kay Bryant told the tribunal that when she entered the room she heard Mr O'Brien shouting, "She hit me."
When she asked him what was wrong, he said: "She hit me, she slapped me, the one who was washing me. The one with the gruff voice."
Ms Bryant said she noticed a red mark on the patient's face that looked fresh.
She said: "He was extremely traumatised and upset and there was no doubt in my mind that something had happened."
Ms Bryant took statements from all the staff who had attended to Mr O'Brien that morning and reported the incident to the registered provider of the nursing home, John O'Keeffe.
She also photographed the injury on Mr O'Brien's face.
Ms Cooke-Daly was suspended with full pay that day and later dismissed from her job for gross misconduct, following an independent investigation by the HCI and a hearing by a disciplinary and grievance panel.
Mr O'Brien's nephew and the gardai were also told.
Mr O'Brien has since died.
Ms Cooke-Daly later appealed the decision of the disciplinary and grievance panel but this was upheld and she was dismissed from her position with an ex-gratia payment of four weeks' pay.
She told the tribunal she had been unable to get a job since then despite several efforts to gain employment as a child minder.