Nursing home deaths report ‘a whitewash’
Nursing home deaths report ‘a whitewash’

Outraged relatives of elderly people who died in the care of Leas Cross Nursing Home have dismissed an official inquiry in to the scandal as a whitewash.

Grieving sons and daughters criticised the state-appointed investigation for protecting the identity of health workers and chiefs responsible for allowing a catalogue of neglect to go undetected for years.

The north County Dublin home was shut down in August 2005 after an undercover television investigation caused a scandal.

It later emerged 105 patients died at the nursing home between 2002 and 2004, many showing symptoms of grave neglect including bed sores, dehydration and malnutrition.

The Leas Cross inquiry today found insufficient numbers of competent staff led to a serious deterioration in the standard of care in the two years before the home closed.

Inspections and complaints going back over a number of years should have alerted the state’s Health Service Executive (HSE) to problems at the facility, it stated.

Tony Mullins, whose 82-year-old mother Kitty died at the facility in February 2004, said it was disgraceful that those responsible could remain anonymous.

“The report confirms abuse, it confirms the absolute incompetence and neglect by the HSE to fulfil its duties, I don’t understand that,” said Mr Mullins, of the Leas Cross Deaths Relatives Action Group.

“It’s extraordinary what you can get away with in the HSE, it’s almost like they are some evil empire like the KGB. There’s no accountability and there’s no political will for accountability.”

Age Action said vulnerable residents who suffered sub-standard care were seriously betrayed by those responsible for managing the home and regulating standards there.

“The arms of the state responsible for protecting these people let them down, and let them down in a major way,” said spokesman Eamon Timmins.

“It is unclear if the systemic failures would have hidden the problem if it had not been for the media.”

The Commission of Inquiry into the Leas Cross Nursing Home was set up two years ago to investigate the management, operation and supervision of the facility with a single member, state lawyer Diarmuid O’Donovan.

Mr Mullins said serious questions had be asked by medical personnel, particularly those working in Beaumont.

“I believe as of today no nurse or doctor has been sanctioned or criticised in any official report in relation to the Leas Cross disaster,” he continued.

“Not one person that I’m aware of has been found guilty of any misconduct. So what does that mean for the regulation of the medical profession?”

Mr Mullins also said family members were only handed copies of the report hours before it was published and attacked the decision to release it the same day as the high-profile ‘An Bord Snip’ report.

“It is however ironic to note that the abuses highlighted in the report happened at a time of plenty and not cutbacks,” he said.

Health Minister Mary Harney denied it had been planned that the two major reports were published within hours of each other.

Sinn Fein Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghin O Caolain described as “cynical in the extreme” the decision to publish the report under a “smokescreen”.

He said it was a disservice to the report itself and to the many nursing home residents and families across the country who had been awaiting the report and who are anxious to see the badly needed implementation of major improvements in monitoring and inspection of nursing homes.

“The report highlights the totally inadequate inspection system which allowed the neglect of people in Leas Cross to happen. It took a media investigation to expose the facts that the HSE had failed to find or chose to ignore. All the lessons of this report must be learned and implemented.”

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