Nursing home scandal
Nursing home scandal

A police investigation is underway at a nursing home in County Dublin following the broadcast of shocking scenes of neglect and mistreatment of elderly patients.

A wave of anger has followed the broadcast of a television documentary on conditions at Leas Cross Nursing Home in Swords, north Dublin.

The Dublin government have been strongly criticised for failing to maintain standards in elderly care institutions.

There were revelations of a damning litany of suffering at the Leas Crosss home, including bed sores deep enough to reveal bone. A patient with untreated bedsores was also left to develop the superbug MRSA, while an elderly woman was seen to be goaded by a care assistant.

Fourteen patients at the nursing home are understood to have died between January and March this year.

It also emerged that the operators of nursing homes are routinely tipped off in advance of pending inspections. Nevertheless, reports from health inspectors attending other homes around the country, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, have revealed cases of:

  • food being cleaned off dinner plates and served up the following day

  • patients only getting baths or showers every 10 days

  • clothes unwashed, cleaning not carried out

  • heating turned off or broken

  • privacy curtains in disrepair

  • medicine not administered

  • sick and dying patients ignored

  • staff instructed to lie to inspectors

    The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern claimed that the Health Service Executive (HSE) was ‘duped’ about conditions at the Leas Cross nursing home.

    “They believed that they were making progress in getting these rectified,” he said. “They now believe that they were duped. That is their position and that is what they’ve said to me.”

    He also said that legislation regarding inspections would not be ready until the autumn.

    Minister for Health, Mary Harney, apologised to the victims and said everyone would have been shocked by the revelations.

    Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin O Caolain called for immediate government action to recruit additional inspectors of nursing homes.

    “The real scandal is that the Department of Health and Children, the Health Services Executive and successive Governments have provided no protection for elderly people in these institutions,” he said.

    “It is abhorrent that millions upon millions of euros of public money has been poured into the pockets of the unscrupulous owners of this nursing home. The Health Service Executive effectively abandoned people to the regime for which the owners of Leas Cross, the Aherns, have been responsible. What sanction under the law will they now face?

    “We cannot wait for an independent inspectorate to be established, perhaps in a year’s time. The Minister for Health and Children should immediately ensure that additional inspectors are appointed throughout the country and that all nursing homes are inspected within the next two months.”

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