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HSE apologises ‘unreservedly’ to ‘voiceless’ Áras Attracta woman

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Áine Ryan

THE HSE has agreed to pay €440,000 to a ‘voiceless’ woman, with a severe intellectual disability, whose abuse was exposed in an RTÉ Prime Time programme in 2014. The executive has apologised ‘unreservedly’ for her experiences of mental abuse and physical assault, revealed during the undercover report which led to a number of Áras Attracta staff being suspended and before the courts.   
Speaking last Thursday, the President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly described the woman’s treatment by HSE personnel in Áras Attracta as ‘inhuman’, according to The Irish Times. While the case made sad reading for the woman, it made shameful reading for the HSE, the judge said.
He also noted that her condition and circumstances had significantly improved since the HSE had moved her after the exposé.
Aged in her 70s, the non-verbal woman has been in Health Board or HSE care since her birth.
Now a Ward of Court, she was represented by Ms Patricia Hickey, the general solicitor for wards of court who initiated proceedings on her behalf.
Among the claims, it was alleged the woman suffered physical and emotional abuse while in a unit of Áras Attracta; was deprived of appropriate supports and stimuli and was physically deprived and abused.
Having admitted liability, the case came before the High Court on Thursday last.
Representing the HSE, Micheál Ó Scanaill said it wished to apologise ‘unreservedly’ to the woman for the manner in which she was treated, as was documented in the RTÉ programme.
The €440,000 settlement comprised €300,000 for general damages and aggravated damages, €100,000 for loss of disability allowance and €40,000 for the cost of an independent advocate for the woman to monitor her care into the future.
Mr Justice Kelly praised Ms Hickey for the expeditious manner in which she took the proceedings and also noted it was to the credit of the HSE it did not attempt to deny liability for the treatment meted out to this ‘unfortunate’ woman, according to The Irish Times report.
He added that it was ‘crucially important’ the woman has an independent advocate into the future to police the HSE undertakings as to her care.

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