DOZENS of concerns regarding nursing homes in Cork were raised during an 18-month period, including allegations of abuse, neglect and poor care as well as fears over staff shortages.
These concerns were revealed to The Echo through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
However, an expression of concern to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) does not immediately make it valid, the CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland stressed.
Separately, more than 110 inspections of Cork nursing homes were carried out by HIQA between January 2019 and June 2020, The Echo can reveal.
Documents also obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act show that 67 Cork nursing homes were inspected 112 times during the 18-month period. Eleven of the nursing homes were found to be non-compliant in more than half of the relevant inspection criteria.
There are 47 private and voluntary nursing homes and 19 HSE operated nursing homes in Cork, providing care to over 3,000 people across the county.
Documents obtained by The Echo revealed dozens of concerns regarding Cork nursing homes, including allegations of abuse, neglect and poor care as well as concerns over staff shortages, incorrect medication prescribing and poor hygiene. Concerns can be presented to the Authority through its unsolicited information process. Between January 2019 and June 2020, more than 120 concerns were raised with HIQA regarding issues with Cork nursing homes. The Echo has obtained documents detailing these concerns although some are partially or completely redacted.
The documents reveal that one person claimed a Cork nursing home resident had died and the family was not informed.
Meanwhile, almost 20 ‘concerns’ raised with HIQA in the past five months centred around the Covid-19 pandemic and how Cork nursing homes were dealing with the pandemic.
One concern, dated in March, claimed that a staff member had returned to work without any quarantine period following travel.
Another concern, raised with HIQA in March, claimed that a resident “absconded from the centre for a number of hours without staff being aware during the visitation lockdown”. It was further claimed that no measures were put in place to isolate this resident upon their return, leaving other residents at risk of contracting Covid-19.
Another concerned member of the public claimed that staff at a Cork nursing home were not wearing masks.
Other concerns, dated in May, claimed that residents of Cork nursing homes were allowed out of the centre and were at risk of bringing the virus back to the home.
Meanwhile, some 15 concerns were raised with HIQA in relation to the medical needs of residents not being met in Cork nursing homes in the past 18 months.
One concerned individual claimed that upon arriving at hospital, a resident of a Cork nursing home was found to have a severe infection and was suffering from dehydration.
Another claimed that a failure to provide care in a timely manner contributed to the death of a resident in 2018.
“Residents’ health and social care needs are not being met,” one concerned person stated.
Another claimed that a nursing home resident went three days without medical attention after suffering a fall, while other concerns highlight delays in treatment of pressure sores.
One person claimed that, after a resident suffered a fall, no doctor was called until the resident’s family insisted. It was then discovered the resident had suffered a fracture.
Another person claimed that the poor standard of care at a Cork nursing home led to a resident’s infection going untreated for months.
Some 11 concerns raised with HIQA about Cork nursing homes detailed issues with staff shortages while four more claimed some staff were unqualified. It was claimed that staff shortages were impacting the care, safety and wellbeing of residents at some Cork nursing homes.
“Staff are not trained in care of dementia residents,” said one person, who added there is a lack of empathy for residents who are subjected to “chemical restraints and bed rail restraints used on a daily basis”.
Ten concerns were also sent to HIQA claiming that residents had suffered abuse, rough treatment or neglect at the hands of staff in Cork nursing homes.
One person claimed that a resident was slapped in the face by a carer, while another stated that staff were verbally abusive towards residents.
Meanwhile, eight concerns were raised with HIQA with regards to hygiene within Cork nursing homes, with some claiming the hygiene of residents was being neglected while others claimed centres themselves were unclean and unhygienic.
Some six concerns centred around falls, with some claiming that neglect and a lack of staff supervision was contributing to the level of falls.
“Residents are falling, particularly in the evening time, due to a lack of staff supervision,” claimed one concerned individual.
A number of concerns raised with HIQA highlighted issues with incorrect medication being administered to residents.
Two people claimed they discovered that residents of some Cork nursing homes had been given medication that was prescribed to another resident.
A handful of concerns were also sent to HIQA claiming that food and nutrition at some Cork nursing homes was of a poor standard.
One claimed that they were “concerned over the quality of food provided to residents. Supper is served at 5.15pm, which is the last meal of the day”. Another claimed that the quantities of food provided is insufficient.
Meanwhile, five concerns were also sent to HIQA surrounding issues with fees and where residents’ money was being spent.
One claimed that a Cork nursing home resident’s money and personal items have gone missing and that the nursing home was “unable to provide a breakdown relative of how the service user’s pension money has been spent”.
Another claimed that a resident with advanced dementia was being charged for nursing home activities which they could not take part in while another claimed that residents were being charged more than the Fair Deal scheme agreement.
In a statement to The Echo, a spokesperson for HIQA explained it does not have a remit to investigate individual complaints.
“However, all unsolicited information, which can be received from anyone concerned about a centre, is used to inform the Authority’s monitoring of each residential centre,” she said.
“Where HIQA has concerns related to the safety of residents and the quality of care that they are receiving, providers are required to take immediate action to address this.
“HIQA inspectors follow up with providers to ensure that the actions are being implemented and are resulting in improvements for residents,” she added.
“Where there are risks to the safety of residents or where the provider has failed to address areas of concern repeatedly, HIQA can take escalated action, up to and including court action to cancel the registration of the centre.”
In a statement to The Echo, Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, explained that simply submitting a concern to HIQA does not immediately make it valid.
“Concerns can be presented to the Authority through its unsolicited information process,” he said.
“Submission of such does not constitute validity of the concern.”
He also spoke of the huge pressures that the sector are currently under, due to the coronavirus.
“Covid-19 presented a pandemic never previously encountered within our health services and wider society and nursing homes were those on the frontline, managing a virulent virus that threatened the lives of residents and presented huge pressures for nursing home management and staff.”