Institutionalised abuse in nursing home
Institutionalised abuse in nursing home

The report into the Leas Cross nursing home scandal has concluded that the level of care provided to residents constituted institutional abuse.

The report, by consultant geriatrician Prof Des O’Neill, also warns that the problems experienced at the private facility could be repeated elsewhere in Ireland.

The nursing home, based in Swords outside Dublin, was the subject of a shocking television documentary expose, which revealed that the elderly and disabled patients were being ignored and struggling to survive in dire conditions. Leas Cross closed in August 2005.

The report strongly criticises the way that the private nursing home was operated as well as the regulatory process overseen by health authorities. The governnent has been accused of corrupt practices in connection with the oversight of private nursing homes, with inspectors tipping off nursing homes in advance of an inspection.

Prof O’Neill also maintains that policy, legislation and regulations put in place by the Dublin government and the health service over many years had failed to adequately address the needs of older Irish people.

He said the conditions in Leas Cross were probably not isolated.

“Rather, given the lack of structure, funding, standards and oversight they are very likely to be replicated to a greater or lesser extent in institutions throughout the long-term care system in the country,” the report stated.

Following its publication, the report was sent to the Gardai with a view to the prosecution of the guilty parties, and it has also been sent to the bodies responsible for policing the nursing and medical professions.

The Opposition parties have strongly criticised the Dublin government for failing to introduce a tough inspection regime for nursing homes even after revelations on Leas Cross.

There have been continuing suggestions that government officials are receiving corrupt payments to turn a blind eye to the shoddy practices of certain private care institutions.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghin O Caolain said the report served as a “further indictment” of successive governments and health bureaucrats who “presided over a system which allowed he old and the vulnerable to be disgracefully neglected in nursing homes.

“There is no doubt that inadequate staffing, inadequate care and, most seriously, inadequate vigilance on behalf of State authorities led to the deaths of patients in Leas Cross and in other nursing homes.”

O Caolain criticised the terms of reference given to Prof O’Neill as the relatives of the denied the opportunity to participate and provide evidence which threatened to be even more damning.

“The Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney should provide a forum for the relatives to make this evidence available,” he said.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News