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Shocking Prime Time doc shows elderly, fragile women being hit, kicked and dragged across the floor

TheJournal.ie has been allowed view the documentary on Áras Attracta in advance. HSE and Garda investigations are under way into what the Taoiseach has called “intolerable” claims of abuse at the home.

Updated: 9.24pm

IN WHAT’S ONE of the most disturbing scenes in tonight’s shocking Prime Time investigation into the treatment of residents at Mayo’s Áras Attracta, 53-year-old Ivy McGinty is repeatedly denied use of the bathroom by a staff-member.

“If you died Ivy, I wouldn’t bring you to the toilet,” the care worker tells the distressed resident, who — unable to speak — tugs and pulls at her clothes to communicate her needs.

The staff member tells her colleagues not to bring Ivy to the toilet either.

The frustrated resident — as another way of signaling her needs — holds out a pair of rubber gloves.

But the gloves are repeatedly thrown on the ground by unconcerned staff-members, as Ivy is shooed away. One worker swipes at her head with a ring-binder, as the confused resident paces back and forth between the women tasked with her care.

In another scene, Ivy is dragged along the floor after being denied permission to sit on her favourite chair.

And on another occasion, the 53-year-old — who has severe intellectual disabilities — is struck by a worker and told: “You’re wet. I know you are — but you can stay in it.”

The Gardaí and the HSE confirmed last week that they were investigating the activities of staff members at the Swinford residential care home.

Some details of the alleged abuse suffered by women at the home also emerged last week — that they had been slapped, force-fed and otherwise mistreated. 

The full extent of those claims will be detailed in full this evening, as RTÉ broadcasts ‘Inside Bungalow Three’ — the exposé compiled by its Investigations Unit.

It goes out tonight at 9.35pm in the usual Prime Time slot.

Source: RTÉ TV Promotions/YouTube

TheJournal.ie and other media outlets were allowed view an edit of the programme last night, with the understanding that no details be given until 6am this morning.

Shot over a three-week period with hidden cameras, the documentary focuses on three women — Ivy McGinty, Mary Garvan and Mary Maloney.

It shows them being slapped, kicked, pulled around, prodded, hit with keys, and otherwise roughly treated — and medical experts who contribute to the report describe the mental anguish inflicted on the residents as “entirely unacceptable” and “atrocious”.

Professor Ruth Northway of the University of South Wales says staff appear to be taking pleasure in exerting power over Ivy, in the scene that shows her being denied use of the bathroom.

I find it very difficult to understand why people would think it’s okay to do that — you know people flicking at her with files, kicking her — when all she is trying to do it seems is communicate that she needs to go to the toilet.

According to Professor Owen Barr, head of nursing at the University of Ulster:

This is atrocious behaviour. It is institutionalised in its worst form.

Ivy is pulled from her favourite armchair by a staff member.

Elsewhere in the documentary, Mary Garvan — who has arthritis —  is told to stay in her chair, and threatened with the cold of “the porch” if she doesn’t stay quiet.

The 65-year-old communicates by making sounds, but is unable to speak. Her cries are ignored by staff — only to be acknowledged, eventually, with further threats and reprimands.

Mary’s care plan, we’re told, tells her carers that she likes her hand to be held or stroked as it has a calming effect.

Likewise, the care plan for her fellow resident —  75-year-old Mary Maloney — says she enjoys one-on-one activities. But footage captured by a fixed-position camera shows her left to sit in one spot for six hours. Later, she’s told she’s lucky to have a roof over her head.

Over the entire three weeks of filming, we learn that Mary was allowed outside of the unit on just one occasion.

Source: RTÉ

The experts in nursing, special needs care and law who spoke to producers describe their shock and dismay at what they’re being shown.

“I’ve seen footage like this before, but to be frank, it’s from Eastern Europe, it’s not from Ireland and I feel ashamed about this,” is how Professor Gerard Quinn — Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway puts it.

Professor Barr, from the University of Ulster says it’s “abusive care,” noting…

“…it’s a term that can’t be used lightly.”

Elsewhere, footage of a staff-member force-feeding a resident by pinning her arm down behind a chair is something “you really can’t defend,” says Barr.

“The real striking part of that is the physical presence of the member of staff, the use of restraint.

At one stage the member of staff puts her hands over somebody’s – puts her hands over the individual’s face and that to me is abuse of practice there’s no question about that.

Another (truly mystifying) scene shows a male senior staff member walk into the unit and sit on top of one of the patients for several seconds.

The patient is then told to apologise to the staff member by another worker.

Source: RTÉ

Family members of the women featured in the documentary tell how they feel, effectively, betrayed by the system.

A sister of one resident says she’s “shocked beyond words” by the revelations — and that staff members seemed to be treating the women like objects, rather than human beings.

“The days are long gone when a senior manager can say ‘I didn’t realise it was happening’, Professor Barr says.

It is their job to have systems in place, to make sure they know what’s happening in the units they’re responsible for.

According to Lorraine Dempsey of the Special Needs Parents Association:  

“Absolute responsibility in any setting goes right up to top level management and in this case we’re talking about the HSE.

I don’t think the HSE at higher levels can abdicate responsibility and just put full blame on those staff – The buck does not stop with the people on the ground. It goes right up to the top.

Nine staff-members have been suspended from work as the HSE and Gardaí investigate the claims detailed in the documentary.

Source: RTÉ

HSE National Director for Social Care Pat Healy said last week that the claims “should they be proved to be founded, are wholly unacceptable in any facility that provides care to vulnerable people”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the allegations of abuse were “intolerable” and that he had been briefed on the situation by Ministers Leo Varadkar and Kathleen Lynch.

Kenny told the Dáil he hadn’t yet seen the footage, but planned to watch it tonight or tomorrow morning.

I believe I speak for the country when I say the idea that men and women with intellectual disabilities would be slapped or sat on … is utterly intolerable and unacceptable.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin raised the issue during Leaders’ Questions. The Sinn Féin deputy said that his own brother is non-verbal due to an intellectual disability.

He said it was unacceptable that “our voiceless in care depend on whistleblowers…and RTÉ’s Prime Time programme” for the truth of their living conditions to be uncovered.

Ó Caoláin noted that Áras Attracta was not an isolated case, stating: “We need to look at care settings right across the board.”

Kenny said the HSE is investigating the issues raised by Prime Time. He commended RTÉ for exposing the mistreatment, saying the footage may lead to criminal charges being filed.

Reports

Inspectors from health watchdog body HIQA found problems with the care being provided at the facility in a report published back in July.

RTÉ says it was later contacted by someone who had concerns about ongoing staff behaviour — and the programme team managed to secure a work experience placement for a researcher, who captured the disturbing footage.

Reports were made to the HSE and Gardaí last month, after producers decided to pull the researcher out of the facility.

A written report has also been handed to authorities by RTÉ.

‘Inside Bungalow Three’ will be broadcast on RTÉ One at 9.35pm tonight. It will also be available on the RTÉ Player. 

Additional reporting by Órla Ryan

Originally published: 6pm

Read: Calls for urgent meeting with Varadkar after serious failings at Mayo care home

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