Patients must be warned of sub-standard nursing homes, says Kenny

VULNERABLE pensioners are being put at risk of abuse because the Government refuses to “name and shame” nursing homes the HSE knows are sub-standard, Fine Gael claimed last night.

Party leader Enda Kenny said patients and their families needed to be urgently warned about the poor conditions in order to avoid a repeat of the Leas Cross scandal.

The HSE uncovered low standards in a number of homes during a tendering process for the private sector to provide 100 dependency beds last year, Mr Kenny told the Dáil. He added that the yet to be published O’Neill Report into the 95 deaths at Leas Cross specifically calls on the HSE to warn patients and their relatives urgently of such revelations.

Mr Kenny accused Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of failing to protect elderly and vulnerable people by “sitting” on the report.

Mr Ahern insisted he was determined to stamp out abuse in care homes, but the O’Neill probe was still with the HSE due to legal issues.

“It seems that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have not seen the report, have not looked for it and do not know what it contains,” Mr Kenny told TDs.

“It seems as if the Taoiseach wants to hide behind a legal wall and avoid taking responsibility for what is a fundamentally serious issue.

“Is it not a shocking indictment that this report has not been seen by the Government, has not been sought by the Government and has not been examined by the Tánaiste?

“I ask the Taoiseach to instruct the Tánaiste to get a copy of the O’Neill Report today and ask her to identify the recommendations that can be implemented forthwith and he should order the HSE to implement those recommendations immediately,” said Mr Kenny.

Mr Ahern hit back by saying the Government had moved to put Leas Cross out of business and would continue to protect care home residents. “I understand the O’Neill Report is with the HSE. There are a number of legal ramifications arising out of that report which must be resolved before the report is published, if it can be published. It is not a question that the Tánaiste can demand the report. The conditions of our nursing homes are governed by fairly strict conditions.”

The HSE insisted, however, that it could not be concluded that those nursing homes not awarded a contract were unsuitable to provide more traditional nursing home care. It said the tendering process undertaken last year by the former Eastern Regional Health Authority was in respect of a new model of specialist care to meet the needs of patients accommodated inappropriately in acute hospitals.

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