Leas Cross submissions may delay probe

AN investigation into the running of Leas Cross is unlikely to meet its completion date, because it received more evidence than it had anticipated and is trawling through more than 34,000 documents about former residents.

Submissions on more than 70 patients at the former nursing home have been given to an independent commission of investigation, set up by Health Minister Mary Harney two years after the closure of the controversial facility.

The inquiry into the management, operation and supervision at the Swords-based home is sifting through a larger than expected number of files, not only from relatives of former and deceased patients but hospitals, doctors, as well as the previous owners of Leas Cross.

The inquiry is being headed by barrister Diarmuid O’Donovan and submitted its interim progress report to Ms Harney on March 7 last.

Different sources close to the investigation this week indicated the allocated completion time for its final report in September, was unlikely to be met. This was also indicated by the inquiry itself.

“Almost all of the evidence is larger than we anticipated. We have had a great response from families,” said the inquiry’s solicitor Martina Finlay.

Ms Finlay added that there was a possibility of a “slide” in the completion date. The inquiry is also actively still trying to contact a number of patients or their next of kin who were resident in the home between 1998 and 2005, the year it closed.

Former Leas Cross owner John Aherne, the Health Service Executive, hospitals and health facilities, including St Michael’s House, where some patients were transferred, are all understood to have cooperated with supplying the inquiry with requested files.

Relatives living abroad, including in the US, have also given information to the investigation about former patients at Leas Cross. Several patients, still alive, have also been involved in submissions given to the inquiry. The surviving residents’ evidence is considered important to the inquiry.

The Leas Cross Deaths Relatives Action Group has been involved in nearly 30 of the submissions to the inquiry so far.

Group member Mary Hegarty, whose elderly mother died of pneumonia a month after being taken out of the home in 2004, said its members were happy with the inquiry’s work to date.

“They are going through every single resident who passed through its doors. It’s a mammoth task and also very emotional for families going back over issues.

“We’re very pleased with the professionalism and empathy of the commission though.”


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