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Western Care staff left ‘totally exasperated’


Western Care staff threaten walkout amid two-week management vacuum

Edwin McGreal

Staff at an ‘in crisis’ service in Western Care threatened to walk out last week unless the lack of management at their service was addressed.
Individualised Services at the organisation were HIQA scrutinised in December, but more problems have emerged in recent weeks.
An email sent by eight staff at the service to Interim CEO of Western Care Dr Aoife O’Donohue, seen by The Mayo News, said that staff are ‘totally exasperated’.
The staff said they had experienced ‘some very serious incidents’, that ‘on-call staff have been uncontactable’, and that staff have spent ‘many hours locked in a staff room … for their safety’.
“It is easy to conclude WCA is not capable of fulfilling its responsibilities to the service user and the staff.
“On this basis, but particularly regarding all our concerns about health and safety, all staff have decided we will not attend for work next week unless a manager is put in place with immediate effect.
“You’ll appreciate our commitment to the service user, but we have no other choice,” they stated.
The threat of a strike was eventually called off when an interim manager was appointed to the service over the weekend.
Six other current and former Western Care staff, all of whom have experience of working in or with the service in question, have expressed their concerns to The Mayo News about the service. Each also criticised the level of supports received from Western Care.

Neglect and suffering
The service is the subject of a Protected Disclosure by a senior manager in Western Care, who expressed concerns with how the under-fire Individualised Services section of Western Care is being run, along with criticisms of senior management in the organisation.
The person in question said the service demonstrated ‘systemic failings leading to neglect and unnecessary suffering’ for the service user.
He added he was speaking from experience of the service in question but ‘strongly suspects’ that ‘similar failings’ exist in some other Individualised Services.
The Protected Disclosure was made in September of 2022.
The particular service – in a Mayo town that The Mayo News is not naming to protect the identity of the service user – was also the subject of a Protected Disclosure by a former employee of Western Care in 2018.
Former CEO Donal McCarthy, who was removed from his position by the board of Western Care in November, had approved a number of measures to address issues in the service.
The Mayo News understands that the measures taken included the sanctioning of a two-to-one staff-to-user ratio. However, that never became practice.
Other steps included greater supports, such as psychology and behavioural support, for the service user. Former employees at the service have told The Mayo News that such supports were frowned upon by senior management.
The three managers with direct responsibility for the service all took leave in recent weeks. The last left the week before Christmas, leaving staff were without a direct manager for over two weeks. The interim manager was appointed in recent days.

In response to a number of questions from The Mayo News, Western Care issued the following statement:
“Individualised Services within Western Care Association are currently being examined as part of an independent, external review.
“It would be inappropriate for Western Care Association to comment on matters that are subject to that review.
“Western Care Association continues to engage with HIQA, Safeguarding Team, the HSE and all relevant parties about staffing levels throughout the organisation.
“Our commitment to providing the most appropriate care in the most appropriate setting remains unchanged, and should action be required at any site, that action will be taken.”