'Their whole life revolves around their bed,' said HIQA inspector of elderly residents in HSE-run facility

By Noel Baker

A HSE-run facility for older people which is at the centre of court proceedings "appeared institutional and hospital-like" with some residents spending some of the day in bed and eating meals at their bedside, according to a report by health watchdog HIQA.

The Health Information and Quality Authority also said an allegation of an abusive interaction at the HSE-run St Joseph's Hospital In Ennis, Co Clare, was recorded in the complaints book but had not been investigated as an incident of abuse, with HIQA stating it had not been notified as per the requirements.

There were three major con-compliances with standards at the 120-bed facility, which at the time of the inspection had 80 residents.

In what is understood to be the first case of its kind, the HSE had appealed to the local District Court after HIQA had earlier made critical observations about the centre and had ordered that it stay closed to new admissions.

However, just last month it was decided that St Joseph's could remain open to new admissions after the HSE and HIQA reached an agreement following proceedings at the District Court.

This morning HIQA would only state that "one of these centres is the subject of court proceedings and the Authority is monitoring the provider's implementation of an action plan to address the regulatory non-compliances."

In an inspection report issued this morning, HIQA said St Joseph's Hospital in Ennis "appeared institutional and hospital-like" with residents spending most of their days in bed, with staff acknowledging a lack of privacy for the people living there.

    The HIQA report also lists a number of other issues raised by inspectors, including:

  • no dining room in the Hazel or Alder units, with residents eating all their meals by their bedside;
  • there were not enough showers and only two assisted showers;
  • a complaint was viewed in the complaints book concerning the disturbance caused in a multi-occupancy room by the aggressive behaviour of a resident;
  • bags of soiled clothing were seen stored in blue bags on the floor next to beds, while some residents had urinals hanging on the side of their beds in close proximity to other residents;
  • residents with dementia were calling out at regular intervals, with other residents claiming they struggled to get to sleep with the noise;
  • there was one toilet area to share between 12 residents which was located between two six bedded units, and in one area the door to this toilet area was partially blocked by the position of a bed.

The inspection, which took place last August, was the eighth at the facility and the report issued today stated: "Similar to findings on previous inspections the premises was found to be significantly non-compliant with regulatory requirements.

The premises did not meet the individual and collective needs of residents in terms of their privacy, personal space, access to dining and communal space and adequate and accessible sanitary facilities. This had a significant negative impact on the quality of life of residents who resided in the centre."

The outcome of last month's court case was reported locally and local TD Dr Michael Harty told The Clare Champion that it was "regrettable" that the HSE had to bring a court appeal to keep the doors of St Joseph's open.

He said the centre had provided an excellent service but that the failure to accelerate progress at St Joseph's was one of the reasons he had not voted for Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach.

File photo.

During the recent court proceedings involving the centre Clare FM reported comments from senior HIQA inspector Mary O’Mahony, who told the court: “Isn’t the night very long if you go to bed at 4pm and you are in bed until 8am the next morning?”

Ms O’Mahony said that in one unit at St Joseph’s Hospital it would not be unusual if 18 of the 24 residents were in bed for tea at 4pm or 4.30pm or to have 15 out of 24 residents were by their bed for their dinner.

She added: “Their whole life revolves around their bed."

It was agreed that the HSE would continue to carry out works at the hospital and Judge Patrick Durcan adjourned the case to September 22 to allow the improvement works take place at the centre.

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