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Assaulted Áras Attracta staff may sue HSE

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Assaulted Áras Attracta staff may sue HSE


Anton McNulty


THE fallout of the HIQA report into the services at the Áras Attracta residential care centre in Swinford could result in former staff taking claims against the HSE for assaults they received from patients.
The HIQA report into the practices of Áras Attracta residential care centre found major non-compliances with care standards during visits on February 25 and 26, 2014. Some of the main areas of concern in the report related to mealtimes and nutrition and 59 recommendations were made by HIQA.
On a second inspection carried out on May 26 and 27, inspectors noted a ‘significant improvement’ in relation to their areas of concern.

Unannounced inspection
Áras Attracta was accommodating 97 residents with intellectual disabilities when information from whistleblowers led HIQA to carry out an unannounced inspection last February.
A high number of staff in Áras Attracta were assaulted by patients during the course of their duties and according to Noel Giblin, the national secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), the lack of staff resulted in patients ‘acting out’ because they were not receiving due care and attention.
Mr Giblin, who also worked for a period in Áras Attracta, told The Mayo News that staff at the centre had raised concerns similar to those which were raised in the HIQA report with the HSE in 2007. However, he said these were not acted upon and as a result the service in the centre declined.
He said management ignored an independent review of staff numbers recommendation to appoint 28.5 further staff and as a result safe and effective care of patients suffered.
“The report was never even addressed, in fact the management tried to remove the likes of myself because we tried to have this exposed. It remained 28 staff short added to by retirements, staff on sick leave and assaults on staff by patients who never returned. The patients were not stimulated and were acting out because of this and as a result there were high levels of assault. The figures revealed in 2009 showed there were 121 assaults in 2008 by patients on staff. That is a high number of assaults and gives a flavour of the problems facing staff,” he said.
Mr Giblin explained that while the issue of compensation to staff who were assaulted while on duty in Áras Attracta has not been raised with him, it could be a possibility in the future.
“The realities is the HIQA report told the story of the dangers of being short staffed. The high number of staff being assaulted was down to poor staffing levels and you may say where there is blame there is a claim. Perhaps we will see further action on this,” he said.

Staff ignored
Mr Giblin said the problems in Áras Attracta occurred because staff concerns were ignored and the budget dictated what was done instead of the needs of the patients. He said the PNA met with the management in 2007 outlining their concerns but bungalows were closed in 2008 and 2010. He said this was to pool the patients together to care for them in a cheaper way.
A media campaign to highlight the cuts in Áras Attracta was carried out in 2010 and Mr Giblin said families of patients were shocked at the cuts.
While welcoming the procedures now being put in place by the HSE, Mr Giblin said there were a number of outstanding issues and wanted to raise them with the new Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar.
Inspectors concern
The HIQA report states that inspectors were concerned that practice in both areas required significant improvement to ensure the health and well being of residents. Some residents weights were under the recommended measurement and although the dietician had prescribed supplements and high calorie diets, there was no evidence in their daily record sheets that they were receiving these.
The report says mealtimes were not a pleasant experience nor a social occasion with some residents being offered spoonfuls of food in quick succession by some staff before the residents had swallowed and enjoyed the previous spoonful. There was also concern that residents went for 15 hours without food to facilitate staff duty arrangements.
After the inspection the HSE replaced the person in charge and HIQA’s second inspection of the centre in May showed significant improvements although more have been recommended.
The death of Crossmolina man Francis Loughney, who died in November 2012 in Mayo General Hospital is believed to have led to inspections after the coroner John O’Dwyer expressed concerns at the post mortem results following the death of the former Áras Attracta patient.

Report welcomed
In a statement the HSE welcomed the HIQA report and ‘all matters identified as requiring urgent attention were immediately rectified’.
“Residents and their families can be assured that all actions required by HIQA have been implemented and that management and staff will continue to work with residents and their families to provide the highest standards of care in the unit. Our goal is to ensure that we continue to improve and develop our services for all of our residents.”