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Nursing home staff member accused of 'squeezing resident's face and using abusive language'

The allegations are contained in documents released to TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information Act.

A NURSING HOME staff member was accused in a complaint to Hiqa of squeezing a resident’s face and using abusive language towards them, according to newly released documents.

In one piece of unsolicited information sent to Hiqa, the Health Information and Quality Authority, there is an allegation of a staff member being observed “physically and verbally abusing” someone.

In that same entry – which is heavily redacted in places – the following account is given:

“When they walked into the room, another staff member was already there. They had their hand over the [REDACTED] mouth and nose.

They were squeezing the residents face and telling them to be quiet using abusive language. [REDACTED] concerned this abuse may have been happening for a while but the [REDACTED] could not communicate this.

The allegation is contained in documents released to TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents concern unsolicited information received by Hiqa in relation to older persons’ services throughout 2017.

Hiqa has a legal responsibility for the monitoring, inspection and registration of designated nursing homes in Ireland.

The information comes from anyone concerned about something in a nursing home. Hiqa is unable to investigate individual complaints raised, but uses them to inform its inspections.

The concerns are heavily redacted in places and are undated. All identifying material of the centres and people involved are removed, in order to respect their privacy.

Despite this, they give a real glimpse into the widespread issues and failings in residential care centres and nursing homes across Ireland.

Sexual and physical abuse of residents, inadequate staffing, elderly people being left without help after soiling themselves, unhelpful staff, no space and an overall lack of care are the most common issues raised.

Recently, Hiqa published reports into 17 residential centres for elderly people. It found widespread compliance in 13 and areas of non-compliance in four.

Rusty tables, foul smells and a lack of privacy were the main issues found in one centre.

Abuse 

In total over 500 individual pieces of unsolicited information were received by Hiqa throughout 2017 to November. They range from minor issues to the very severe.

According to one complainant, a male staff member at a care facility “uses sexual innuendo towards female residents and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere among residents and staff”.

They said that female residents at the care centre are afraid of male care assistants helping them as a result of this, “especially during the night hours when there are no female staff on duty”.

“Care staff are intimidating residents,” the complainant says.

this Source: Hiqa

In another instance in the documents, someone said they left a centre “due to an incident they witnessed of physical abuse by another staff member”.

The incident was reported to management who said the staff member in question had been fired “but they were not”.

In another case, there is a report of staff member smacking someone across the face.

Another concern raised involved someone claiming to have seen “a staff member physically assault a resident, this staff member continues to work in this service”.

Other complaints 

Other common issues involve residents suffering regular falls and a lack of staff in centres. One document talks about residents being “bullied on a daily basis by staff and being treated unfairly”.

Another mentions how a patient was “found squashed in bed and fully dressed with shoes on”.

Another concerned person raises the issue of “a strong odour of urine and faeces in the bedroom”.

The resident is not assisted with personal hygiene. The bedroom and bathroom area is filthy and the strong odour is extremely unpleasant.

A serious allegation states that a resident is intimidated by a carer and “goes in the foetal position when the carer enters the bedroom”.

another Source: Hiqa

Yet another complaint involves a resident being told to strip naked on admission to a centre.

The complainant alleges that the person was “confused and embarrassed but did not verbalise these feelings to the staff involved”.

foi Source: Hiqa

Other issues are widespread and continue in a similar vein, with complaints around staffing, overcrowding and lack of care.

Hiqa’s role

Hiqa does not have a remit to investigate the individual complaints and problems raised in the above cases. Rather, they use them to inform inspections on centres.

“The aim of the Health Information and Quality Authority is to advance high-quality and safe care for people accessing health and social care services in Ireland,” a spokesperson said.

“Where Hiqa has concerns related to the safety of residents and the quality of care that they are receiving, providers are required to take immediate action to address this.

Hiqa inspectors follow up with providers to ensure that the actions are being implemented and are resulting in improvements for residents.

Hiqa has powers to monitor, inspect and investigate to ensure standards and regulations are being upheld.

It is also able to take legal action against centres that consistently fail to uphold standards.

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd – who has raised issues around elderly persons’ services in the past – said that any allegations around mistreatment must be taken very seriously and investigated fully.

“Any allegations have to be taken very seriously – these are very vulnerable people who are being exploited,” he said.

They live in fear because they are elderly and are victims of abuse… and at the end of the day that is not acceptable.

Read: Rusty tables, foul smells and no privacy: Nursing home ordered to improve after concerning inspection

Read: ‘Major non-compliance’: 82 foster carers in Cork did not have up-to-date Garda vetting

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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