A timber smoking shed with a plastic bin into which ashtrays were emptied and a failure to deep clean following a vomiting outbreak were among the significant shortcomings identified in a series of inspections by the health watchdog.
Youghal Community Houses, home to 18 ageing and disabled residents, was among those singled out by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) as posing substantial fire safety risks to residents.
In addition to the unsuitable smoking shed, there was no fire extinguisher in the vicinity of the bedrooms, all bedrooms doors which were designated fire doors were wedged open, and no staff members were trained to lead fire drills with residents.
The inspectors also found an elderly resident who smoked indoors spent time alone in the houses during the day unsupervised.
The person in charge of the HSE home said she had asked “on numerous occasions” if a staff member could be trained to lead fire drills but had been told this was not allowed.
Another safety concern was the absence of a suitable outdoor assistive railing on the steep driveway to assist residents’ access to the houses, particularly in the wintertime.
Inspectors were informed that the houses were deep cleaned on an annual basis, but a deep clean had not been done in 2015 at the time of the inspection last September.
The inspectors said this “was of was significance as there had been an episode of a vomiting bug and carpets and soft furnishings in the house had not been deep cleaned since this outbreak”.
On a positive note, the inspectors observed that staff and residents were very comfortable in each other’s company.
The woman in charge of the home was “qualified and suitably experienced”, but told inspectors that responsibilities in other related centres hampered her ability to ensure the effective governance, operational management, and administration of the three Youghal Community Houses.
She said she had requested to be replaced in the role of person in charge over the three houses in March 2015, and this request had not been granted.
Inspectors also found lack of sufficient staffing particularly at times of illness.
A sick resident had been left alone in the centre following his return from hospital for treatment of a serious condition.
Responding to the criticisms, the HSE said they were reviewing the properties with a view to improving accessability, that steps had been taken to improve fire safety, and that a new person in charge had been appointed.
A separate inspection last October of Greenville, a centre operated by the Cork Association for Autism, found management and staff to be “committed, knowledgeable, and caring of the residents”.
However, a number of staff members and relatives expressed concern that staff shortages and unfamiliar staff were impacting on the availability of opportunities for outings, and on two-to-one activities for residents.
They were also impacting on residents’ routine and care despite the importance of routine and familiarity for this specific group.
The director of services told inspectors a group of staff had already been interviewed and were awaiting Garda vetting.
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