Authorities had Leas Cross report before TV exposé

THE health authorities had a highly critical report on the Leas Cross nursing home in Dublin almost a full year before a television programme exposed substandard conditions there, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has confirmed.

The consultant’s report was received by the then Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) last autumn, Bertie Ahern told the Dáil, and was “very critical and raised very serious issues”.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who had raised the matter, asked the Taoiseach to confirm that the report “raised serious questions about the level of care” in the nursing home. He also asked if it was correct that the report “drew attention to the unusually high number of deaths of patients” transferred to Leas Cross from a nearby psychiatric facility.

“All those points that the deputy has raised are correct,” Mr Ahern responded.

Mr Kenny last night demanded to know why the Government had apparently waited until after the RTÉ programme before taking action on Leas Cross.

“The Taoiseach’s response to the Prime Time exposé has been to engage in the usual hand-wringing and hand-washing exercises that this Government has become expert at,” he said.

“This report on Leas Cross may finally nail the fact that this Government and its health authorities knew the full extent of the problems in Leas Cross, but simply failed to act.”

However, the Government said it would have to seek legal advice to see if it could publish the report. “(It) will be published if it is legally permissible to do so,” Mr Ahern said.

The report, prepared by the former head of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, Martin Hynes, was commissioned following the death of a Leas Cross patient.

Sixty-year-old Peter McKenna, who had Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s, died in October 2000, two weeks after being transferred to Leas Cross from St Michael’s House, a facility which caters for people with learning disabilities.

It is understood the ERHA commissioned Mr Hynes’ report after receiving complaints in the wake of the Mr McKenna’s death.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) - the body which replaced the ERHA and the regional health boards - this week decided to move the public patients in Leas Cross.

The Taoiseach said the HSE would “consult with private patients in the home on the executive’s concerns regarding patient safety, the overall level of patient care and the need for alternative arrangements.”

But the owner of Leas Cross, John Aherne, yesterday offered to lease the home to the HSE so that patients there would not have to be disrupted. He also said he would fight any attempts to close the home.

Families who don’t want their relatives moved from Leas Cross yesterday gathered outside the home to protest against the HSE action. Several families said they had no complaints about the standards of care their relatives were receiving.

The HSE Northern Area revealed in recent days that it intends finding alternative accommodation for the 24 public patients at the home and that they will take legal action to close the County Dublin home which was at the centre of a shocking Prime Time exposé.

“I will take the campaign to keep the home open as far as I can for as long as I can. But, to date, I have not received details from the HSE of the exact details of their complaints,” John Aherne told RTÉ’s Liveline.

Admitting the home had “minor problems”, he said the home had experienced nursing staff shortages like many other homes around the country and that they had tried to find new staff but staff employment took time.

His immediate objective, he said, was to ensure the continued “safety and care” of the home’s 92 residents.

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