Residents at Áras Attracta lived a “bleak” and “controlled” existence for the convenience of staff, an independent report has found.

Yesterday the HSE published the Independent Report of Áras Attracta Review Group, which came about as a result of the RTÉ’s Prime Time undercover investigation in December 2014, into conditions at the Mayo care centre.

“Overall then, we found what we call widespread institutional conditioning and the control of residents in Áras Attracta, resulting in the limitation in their rights, their choices and their freedom,” Dr Kevin McCoy, chairman of the review group said.

“Institutional conditioning occurs when people living and supported in institutions react, behave and conform to established rituals and rigid routines which are generally imposed for the ease of managing the service and convenience of management and staff,” he stated.

“That results in people having a loss of independence, limited options and poor control over their lives and the lack of a stimulating environment and fulfilling activities,” he added.

Dr McCoy said that from their findings, it meant residents of the Mayo care home spent considerable amounts of time confined to their units with little engagement with the outside world.

“It [institutional conditioning] means residents spending long hours confined in their bungalows and units without any valuable contact with the outside world and a world where the human dignity, privacy and rights of residents were not always respected or catered for.

“So that seemed for us, to paint a fairly bleak picture of life for residents in Áras Attracta,” he said yesterday.

Dr Kevin McCoy, chairman of the review group
Dr Kevin McCoy, chairman of the review group

The chair of the review group added that “the findings from our work, as it was at the end of 2015, reflected failures at all levels in the system”.

The group held several meetings with staff and residents at Áras Attracta, as well as their relatives.

Dr McCoy said that for the most part, residents were happy living in the care centre and that the things that mattered most to them were a feeling of safety and the ability to socialise and go and meet their friend or family member in the community.

Some relatives were also satisfied with the quality of care however, some did express concerns during the interview process.

“Other relatives shared common concerns with regard to the level of quality of day-to-day activities; the overall management of the service; a culture that did not encourage people to speak out; poor communication; and lack of involvement in personal planning,” Dr McCoy said.

Painting a ‘bleak picture’ of life for Áras Attracta residents

He also explained yesterday about the staff’s reaction to the events at Áras Attracta as portrayed in RTÉ’s Prime Time undercover investigation.

“The events in ‘Bungalow 3’ and indeed the attention and publicity have had a profound effect on staff.

“They were shocked, horrified and embarrassed about what had happened and many also felt hurt, angry and ashamed.

“Overall, the staff was highly critical of many aspects of the service, some of which were historical and others related to more recent developments. Their criticism focused on a lack of leadership and poor management and oversight,” Dr McCoy said.

The head of the review group then stated that the care model of Áras Attracta does not promote independence and it fails to respect people’s basic dignities.

“The current model of service delivery at Áras Attracta is one that promotes dependence over independence, it doesn’t equip people to make decisions about their lives, nor does it take account of an individual’s talents or potential.

“Basically, what it does is it fails to respect the dignity and rights of individuals and those are all characteristics of an institutional congregated setting,” he noted.

Painting a ‘bleak picture’ of life for Áras Attracta residents

Minister for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath, said there is still a “huge amount” of work to be done.

“This report makes it clear that while there have been many improvements since then, there is still a huge amount to be done,” he said.

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