Disability centre improperly charged residents for services

Residents at a disability centre in Louth have been reimbursed after an inspection found they had been inappropriately charged thousands of euro from their own personal funds for basic services and equipment.

Health watchdog Hiqa found that even though the service provider at the St John of God North East Services in Greenmount began a financial review into the matter in August 2015, “there was still evidence of inappropriate practices as recently as May 2016”.

The inspection by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) was one of 25 reports on residential centres for people with disabilities published yesterday.

There were 22 residents at the centre in Greenmount at the time of the inspection, which was also the subject of two inspections last year. It found good practice in many areas and praised staff interaction with residents but raised serious concerns over the inappropriate charging of people living there.

“Hiqa received unsolicited information regarding the management of residents’ finances which was a factor that triggered this unannounced inspection,” read. the report. “The information alleged that residents were being charged substantial sums of money for furniture, medical aids and medical appointments. This inspection found evidence that validated these concerns and found that safeguarding arrangements were not adequate to protect residents from financial abuse.

“For example, between 2012 and 2016, a number of residents were charged €2,300 each for the cost of specialised armchairs, while another was charged €2,499 for an armchair and a dexa scan. Another resident who was assessed as needing a body brace was charged €552 for this specialist medical appliance. Residents or their representatives were not adequately consulted in relation to these charges.”

It said the provider’s own investigation showed that poor practice occurred in the management of residents’ finances and that residents were inappropriately charged for items such as basic medical aids and equipment. The service provider decided that residents were to be reimbursed for items of furniture, medical aids and equipment which they had purchased from their own funds between 2012 and 2016. The provider also pledged to take other measures to ensure best practice.

According to the report: “As a result of concerns raised during this inspection the provider was formally requested by Hiqa to take action and to address this matter in all centres operated by the provider nationally.”

Good practice was noted in many reports including at Grange Apartments, SonasResidential Service in Dublin 15, operated by the Daughters of Charity Disability Support Services Ltd, but inspectors found that, due to the secure nature of their apartment, residents were observed having to wait for staff to respond to them knocking on their door or their verbal calling.


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