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Nursing home apologises after elderly woman with dementia found 3km away with facial injuries

The case, detailed in the Ombudsman 2021 report, was raised after the nursing home refused to engage with the woman’s family.

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A PRIVATE NURSING home has been ordered to apologise to the family of an elderly woman with dementia after she was found injured 3km outside the facility, after initially refusing to engage. 

The case, detailed in the latest report by Ombudsman Ger Deering, describes an incident where a woman in her late 70s and suffering from dementia travelled 3km away from the nursing home and sustained facial injuries.

The Ombudsman investigates complaints from the public about almost all providers of public services as well as third-level education bodies, private nursing homes and direct provision services. His report for 2021 is released today.

The case of the elderly woman with dementia is one such case study detailed in the latest report.

One of the woman’s family members, who is unidentified but named as Norah in the report, complained to the nursing home. The home initially refused to engage with Norah, saying that she could not make a complaint on behalf of the nursing home patient.

After the nursing home refused to provide a written response to the complaint, citing data protection provisions, Norah raised the issue with the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman sought information from the nursing home – which refused to provide it initially - but later provided the information, though it also refused to write to the family of the impacted woman

According to the Ombudsman’s report, the nursing home had carried out an investigation into the incident and made recommendations to avoid the situation into the future. However, the Ombudsman says that this report was not carried out under the nursing home’s complaints policy.

The  Ombudsman’s report details that this was due to a lack of documentation, not carrying out the investigation independently as well as not providing a response to the impacted family.

Following Norah’s complaint to the Ombudsman, the nursing home provided a full written account of the day of the incident to her and her family.

In addition, the Ombudsman contacted the Department of Health on the matter, seeking to introduce a statutory requirement for nursing homes to provide written responses to complaints.

“[The Ombudsman] has also spoken with the Department of Health, with a view to having the requirement for private nursing homes to provide written responses to complaints put on a statutory basis,” reads the report.

Complaint numbers

The annual report also details that a record number of complaints about public services were received by the Ombudsman in 2021.

There were a total of 4,004 complaints received by Deering’s office in 2021, which was a 17% increase compared to 202o.

The largest proportion of the complaints were about local authorities, with 1,290 complaints being received in 2021.

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Dublin City Council received the most complaints, with 227 being submitted to the Ombudsman while Cork City Council had 101 and Limerick City and County Council had 70.

The report also details a 26% increase in complaints about the health sector, with 325 complaints about HSE services.

Of these, 105 were around Primary and Community Care while 56 were about the Treatment Abroad and Cross Border Directive Schemes.

The child and family agency, Tusla, was subject to 118 complaints.

For Government Departments, the Department of Social Protection had the highest number of complaints at 579, which is down from 735 in 2020.

According to the report, there was a “significant increase” in complaints about the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2021, with a majority of these complaints around the delays to first-time passport applications.

The Ombudsman reported 103 complaints to the Department and criticised the Passport Office, saying that while he understood the issues due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the delays were “not acceptable”.

*Note: The Ombudsman’s report has changed the names of complainants to protect their identity 

About the author:

Tadgh McNally

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