Special needs adults ‘not fed for 15 hours’ at HSE facility

Ireland’s health watchdog uncovered serious issues about how residents were treated at a HSE-run facility for adults with intellectual disabilities after being informed by whistleblowers of a death at the unit.

The concerns were highlighted at the Áras Attracta institution in Swinford, Co Mayo, by a Health Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) inspection team earlier this year.

Documents published yesterday, show the facility — which caters for 99 adults with intellectual disabilities — was regularly failing to feed them for up to 15 hours.

Separately gardaí have confirmed that an investigations is ongoing into an earlier sudden death of a resident of the centre in 2012.

Francis Loughney died aged 72 at Mayo General Hospital, having been ill for five days at the centre but it is understood a HSE inquiry found he had not been seen by a doctor.

The coroner referred the case to the gardaí and it is under investigation.

The concerns surrounding Mr Loughney’s death predated the separate issues raised in the HIQA report.

These found some residents of the home were found to be underweight.

When those being treated at the facility were fed, it was often by “spoonfuls of food in quick succession”, with meals found by the inspection team to be cold and left on “unheated trolleys”.

The mealtime situation, which was described by a member of the inspection team as “distressing”, was uncovered during an announced visit by Hiqa officials to the site on February 26 and 27.

The officials stressed that the issues “did not promote the dignity, choice, respect, or independence” of residents involved.

While Hiqa would only say that they examined the facility after receiving “unsolicited information” from “whistleblowers”, the HSE said the watchdog group was brought in after “the death of a patient”.

It is currently unclear whether or not this death related specifically to the issues which were subsequently uncovered as the case — which is a number of months old — has yet to go before the coroner’s court.

However, residents’ deaths only go before an inquest when there are unresolved questions as to how the individual lost their life.

In a statement, the HSE said that while the issues that were highlighted in the February Hiqa inspection were of concern, the vast majority had been addressed before an update inspection on May 26 and 27.

“The inspections were undertaken by Hiqa as a result of a notification of the death of a resident,” according to the HSE statement.

“Since the two Hiqa inspections and three HSE inspections, 52 of 59 of the recommendations have been fully implemented and the remaining seven are underway.

“Governance within the service has been strengthened and the HSE has been assured following review that the service being provided currently is safe,” it said.

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