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Residents at disability centre locked in unit because of staff shortages

In one instance, residents were locked in a unit while a nurse went to another to administer medicines.

Image: locking door image via Shutterstock

TWO INSPECTION REPORTS have expressed concern about the care at a centre for people with disabilities in Co Louth, particularly when it comes to issues caused by a lack of staff.

Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) visited the St John of God centre in February and April this year. The centre is home to 16 people.

One of the reports details a troubling incident which demonstrates how staff shortages are directly  impacting on residents.

On the second morning of the inspection staff were supporting and assisting residents to prepare to go to Mass. However, there were insufficient staff to push a resident in a wheelchair and so the resident watched the other residents leave the house while he was left behind, still wearing his outdoor coat. Some time elapsed before the staff member in the house communicated with the resident that he would not be going out to mass by taking off his outdoor coat.

In April, inspectors witnessed staff locking residents alone in a unit on a number of occasions where sufficient staff had not been deployed.

In one instance, a unit was locked and residents were left alone while a staff nurse went to the other unit to administer medicines. These episodes occurred over a period of two weeks.

“Insufficient staffing levels also prevented residents from participating in social and recreational activities in accordance with their rights, interests, capacities and developmental needs,” the report said.

Injuries

There were also concerns about a resident who had sustained a number of falls. An assessment in 2013 found they required a sit-stand hoist but this never materialised and the resident had another fall this year. Again, there was no suitable intervention put in place.

In another instance, where a resident was assessed as requiring a hoist for safe transfer, documentation stated that “four attempts were made to assist a resident off the floor.”

Incidents of injury and harm between residents, including hitting out and biting,
occurred on an almost daily basis and was observed by staff, one inspection report found.

Overall, major non-compliances were identified in nine of the ten areas inspected.

These reports come after inspections at a care centre for people with intellectual disabilities in Sligo also raised concerns about staffing levels. Here, inspectors found inadequate monitoring of the use of chemical restraint, with one resident drugged on 13 occasions in the past few months.

Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney today hit out at Minister Kathleen Lynch, accusing her of “a complete failure of leadership”.

I am appalled to learn that staff shortages led to residents being locked up alone in a unit on a number of occasions.  This should not be acceptable in a civilised society.

“We are facing a crisis in the provision of disability services. Minister Lynch needs to act now and fight for improved services. Making sure that the most vulnerable in our society have access to safe services needs to be given preference over the next General Election.”

Read: Care centre resident drugged 13 times by staff as form of ‘chemical restraint’>

Read: Children moved from asylum centres after claims of inappropriate contact >

Read: This nursing home has been reprimanded yet again after a FIFTH inspection >

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