The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has said it is developing agreements with the gardaí and the Ombudsman after it was criticised over its handling of abuse allegations.
Hiqa received more than 4,600 allegations of abuse of disabled people in residential care, more than half of which involved allegations of physical abuse.
Yesterday, Hiqa said that “legislative shortcomings” was an issue but that it was already in the process of improving its level of information-sharing regarding allegations it receives.
A spokesman said: “We are developing a formal memo or understanding with the gardaí on the sharing of information.”
He said similar talks were taking place with the Office of the Ombudsman.
A report carried out by Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd showed that, in addition to the allegations, 298 pieces of unsolicited information were received by Hiqa last year, but only one was passed to gardaí and none to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Labour health spokesman Alan Kelly said Health Minister Simon Harris and his junior minister, Finian McGrath, should now investigate Hiqa’s handling of abuse allegations and claimed the authority had “serious questions to answer on the rates of referrals they make to An Garda Síochána and other agencies”.
With 4,500 complaints made in relation to facilities for disabled persons, and nearly 900 relating to nursing homes, it is almost unbelievable that, in 2017, Hiqa felt that only one of these cases needed to be referred to An Garda Síochána,” said Mr Kelly.
“Hiqa say that most of the complaints ‘have not been validated’. I find myself asking how many of those complaints would have been validated had they been passed to the relevant authorities for further investigation.
“I am calling on the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Minister of State for Disability Issues to ask Hiqa to explain their decision not to refer more of these reports of abuse to relevant authorities.”
In a statement, Hiqa said: “There are legislative shortcomings around the protection of adults who may be vulnerable. One of the key pieces of legislation needed to protect vulnerable people is the Adult Safeguarding Bill. This legislation is essential to ensuring that the State protects its vulnerable citizens and that cases of abuse and neglect that still occurs are addressed.”
All unsolicited information and statutory notifications received by Hiqa are used to inform the chief inspector’s monitoring of each residential centre.
“Inspectors review and risk rate all unsolicited information and mandated monitoring notifications received.
“Where the chief inspector and Hiqa has concerns related to the safety of residents and the quality of care that they are receiving, providers are required to take immediate action to address this.”
Hiqa said where appropriate, the information received is passed on to relevant bodies.
“Where there are risks to the safety of residents or where the provider has failed to address areas of concern repeatedly, the chief inspector can and does take escalated action.”
Disability centre could face closure after Hiqa highlights shortcomings
A HSE-run centre for people with disabilities has been warned that it could face closure, unless it raises its standards.
A critical report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found numerous shortcomings.
Cherry Orchard Hospital, in Dublin 10, underwent a fifth inspection by Hiqa, which found nine outcomes to be majorly non-complaint and five moderately non-compliant.
Just 24% of actions from a previous inspection had been completed, with Hiqa warning that failure to ensure improvements for residents could see the centre’s registration being cancelled.
The report outlined how inspectors viewed a number of residents’ care plans, which identified that they were ‘not for resuscitation’, but, “in line with the findings of the last inspection, there was no documentary evidence of discussions held with the residents or their representative.
They did not outline the decision-making process and some care plans, which were in place, had not been reviewed or updated in a number of years,” it wrote.
Other issues found in the report included: Appropriate measures not in place to safeguard residents and protect them from abuse; no evidence of follow-up, after the unexplained absence of a resident from the centre; people entering one of the premises in the centre without ringing the doorbell or signing the visitors’ book; a number of maintenance issues, including ants in the dining room; on the day of inspection, it was unclear as to who was in charge.
Over an eight-week period, there were four occasions in one unit, and seven occasions in the other unit, when there were insufficient staff to meet residents’ needs.
Some staff in the centre had not completed training in line with residents’ assessed needs: 7% of staff in one unit, and 25% in the other, had not completed CPR training; 10% of staff in one unit had not completed management of actual or potential aggression training; and 5% of staff had not completed fire training. Despite improvements since a previous inspection, half of staff had not completed safeguarding training.
As for garda vetting, 58% had sent applications and had not yet received a garda clearance report, and 10% of workers’ garda-vetting reports could not be located.
In response, the HSE pledged to meet targets to address the issues raised at the 27-bed facility.
The inspection report was one of 19 issued by Hiqa yesterday.
At Seacrest Services, run by Ability West, in Galway, Hiqa found standards to be high, but noted: “It became evident, during the inspection, that an allegation of abuse and staff misconduct had not been submitted to the chief inspector as, required.”
At the Comeragh High Support Residential Services, in Waterford, run by Brothers of Charity Services Ireland, the inspection report was generally favourable, but reflected the concerns of some residents that they did not feel safe, “due to the current mix of residents who were accommodated there”, with the issue rated as a ‘red’, or high risk.
At the Skylark 1 facility in Limerick, run by the Brothers of Charity Services Ireland, again, there was a generally high standard of service delivery, but Hiqa noted “a serious injury to a resident, requiring hospital treatment had not been notified to Hiqa, as is required by the regulations”.