The Health Service Executive (HSE) did not report alleged incidents of serious sexual assault at a care home to gardaí, and denied they had ever happened when the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) raised concerns.
Even though the incident log book at the facility, which is in the West of Ireland, had a record of several sexual incidents last year between residents, the inspector of Mental Health Services found no evidence that gardaí had been told of the alleged incident.
Another alleged incident between a resident and a female staff member this year was also logged, according to the inspector’s report, published yesterday.
In fact, the inspector’s report states that gardaí were made aware of the incidents by “another agency”, and not the HSE, which finally met with gardaí in May.
Des Kavanagh, general secretary of the PNA, wrote to the HSE in April asking “if it is true that a client living [in the facility] has in recent months sexually assaulted a [female staff member] and a fellow client, and if the allegations were correct, what actions had been taken to protect patients and staff”.
The response from the office of the HSE area manager, Catherine Cunningham, said: “Please be advised that it is not true that there have been any sexual assaults in the high support hostel, as outlined in your correspondence.”
The letter went on to say: “There was an incident in the hostel last week [March] and that there would be a review of it shortly.”
Mr Kavanagh said his concern was for patients and staff.
Yesterday, the HSE confirmed it has commissioned an external review that will assess the quality, safety, and appropriateness of care for mental health service users in the region, including examining if incidents are properly reported to both internal and external bodies. It is also reviewing the incidents at the institution.
The HSE said: “As both these processes are currently under way, we are unable to comment further at this time. The HSE has reported these matters to the gardaí and safeguards have been put in place to ensure patient safety.”
The inspector, who carried out two unannounced inspections in April and June this year on foot of a number of anonymous complaints, uncovered a further incident of a sexual nature, involving the same male resident, took place between the first and second inspection.
The inspector was unhappy with the response of the service to the incidents with one resident transferred for more than 10 months to “a wholly inappropriate setting”. Even following this arrangement, two further incidents occurred.
“Senior management’s response to these four incidents was slow and many corrective actions proposed by the service had not been implemented some eight weeks after the initial inspection,” the inspector said.
The inspector also found there was “no record of these incidents being discussed in any risk management or clinical governance forum”.
The Mental Health Commission has been in regular correspondence with the HSE since the initial inspection of April 2015 and continues to monitor the steps being taken to address the issues raised, as outlined by the HSE in an implementation plan.
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