Nine members of staff at a centre for intellectual disabilities have been taken “off duty” following allegations made by an undercover reporter.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) took the action as a “protective measure” after receiving a letter detailing the allegations from RTE’s Investigations Unit.
The letter detailed how footage was shot by the undercover reporter at the Aras Attracta facility in Swinford, Co Mayo over a number of weeks.
It contained allegations of force feeding, slapping, kicking and physical abuse and named a number of staff.
Although the HSE has yet to view the footage, it took immediate steps.
Identified staff were taken off duty and the HSE resolved to set up an independently-led inquiry.
The Health Information and Quality Authority and the gardai are also investigating allegations of abuse and poor standards at the centre.
The HSE said actions such as those alleged were wholly unacceptable in any facility.
Gardai were already investigating the sudden death in November 2012 of a long-term resident at the home, Albert Loughney.
HSE national director for social care Pat Healy said it had taken immediate action to deal with the allegations.
Mr Healy said the measure of placing staff on temporary leave is “normal practice for situations like this” and the reports of staff mistreating residents at the Aras Attracta care unit in Mayo are “wholly unacceptable”.
“If these claims are true, it is unacceptable practice and unacceptable behaviour,” Mr Healy told RTE Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme.
He explained that the HSE have already put several measures in place and have notified An Garda Siochana about the allegations.
“Over 59 recommendations were made as a result of audits and all of them have been put in place.
“There have been significant changes at the facility, additional staff have been appointed, as well as a number range of training programs being put in place which aim to safeguard vulnerable adults, as well as a whole range of other issues,” he said.
“Indeed we have a further report in progress at HIQA at the moment, work needs to be done but progress has been made.
“Clearly what I’ve been saying and what I’ve said in this statement – any behaviour of that nature is wholly unacceptable.”
Mr Healy said he wished to provide reassurance to the families of residents and residents at the care facility that the matters are being treated as urgent and have been brought to their attention.
The centre cares for 100 people, 95 of whom are residents and five of whom use the facility for respite care.
Mr Healy said he has not seen footage from an upcoming Prime Time programme, but acted immediately when they received a formal letter of complaint from an individual.
“The minute we got that letter we put a range of measures in place and have taken immediate actions at the centre itself to ensure appropriate services are being provided to residents there.
“As well as the fully established investigations, there is a review process to look at standards overall, to see what else remains to be done.
“It is important to say, as well, that this type of policy is being rolled out across the country,” he added.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he expects to see the results of the independent investigations as soon as possible.
“These actions are intolerable. There are a number of independent investigations underway and I expect to see the results as soon as possible,” he told RTE News at One programme.
“Particularly for the families and patients involved, this is a situation that is truly intolerable.
“Minister Kathleen Lynch informed me of the situation last weekend and I’m satisfied it’s being independently investigated.”