THE HSE HAS been accused of ignoring a warning it allegedly received regarding abuse being perpetrated by the owners of a foster home in the southeast of the country.
It is alleged that a social worker and whistleblower first made a specific complaint to the HSE regarding injuries, consistent with sexual abuse, to a resident at the home in 2009.
That complaint concerned an adult woman with severe intellectual disabilities who had first been placed in the home in 1989.
It is now alleged that the HSE was first warned in 1995 that one of the two foster parents in the home may have been sexually abusing residents by the UK authorities after a former resident who had moved to Britain had made claims of being sexually assaulted during her stay at the home.
Despite no further foster placements being made by the health service at the home from 1995, the woman remained living there until the whistleblower’s 2009 complaint.
It’s understood that the whistleblower has now made a Garda statement accusing HSE employees of criminal negligence.
The HSE has claimed to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which has been investigating the issue for some time, that it apologised to the woman in question at a meeting with her and the whistleblower in early December of last year.
Speaking to This Week on RTE radio the whistleblower denied that any apology had been made:
“The first I heard of an apology at all was when contacted by the media. A meeting did take place in early December, but no apology was either made or offered by the HSE at that meeting.
The suggestion that a formal letter was drafted and issued at our agency’s insistence is just outrageous.
She went on to describe the suggestion of an apology as being “typical of the HSE culture”.
The whistleblower has now called for a full commission of inquiry into the issues she has raised, describing herself as being “at the end of my tether after six and a half years of this”.
Fine Gael TD John Deasy, a member of the PAC, told the same programme that the issue had “shocked me to my core”.
“The problem with this whole issue is it’s mostly nameless and faceless – many of the people concerned are non-verbal,” he said.
We’ve exhausted pretty much every line and we’re at the end of the line. We’re relying on the gardaí now to make a final stab at doing something about this.
Deasy described how one non-verbal resident who was taken from the home in the past had to have seven teeth removed in hospital.
The PAC had earlier obtained a copy of a report commissioned by the HSE into the goings-on at the home between the years 1983 and 1995 via a Freedom of Information request.
The HSE says that it has “apologised for the failings identified in the inquiry reports” in a statement.
“The HSE has apologised for the failings identified in the inquiry reports and for the poor care received by those placed with the foster family, in particular, the person who was the subject of the Conal Devine report, who has been apologised to in person. In recent days, it has been stated in the media that no formal apology was offered by the HSE to the service user or her birth mother.”
The HSE strongly refutes this assertion. The HSE wishes to clarify that the apology offered at the meeting with the service user, and by telephone with her birth mother on 10 December last year, while offered verbally by senior HSE staff from the region’s Disability Services, was a formal apology.
“At all stages of this process, the HSE and the Investigations Teams have engaged directly with An Garda Siochana and have co-operated fully with full sharing of all information. To date, it has not been possible to publish the reports as An Garda Siochana has advised that the publication might interfere with their ongoing criminal investigations.”
However, the HSE reiterates that it does intend to publish both reports as soon as possible once clearance has been received to do so.