Report Uncovers ‘Disturbing’ Facts On Elderly Care

The investigation into the deaths of 95 patients at Leas Cross nursing home uncovered “grave and disturbing” facts about the care of elderly people, the author of the report has said. Professor Desmond O‘Neill, who spent four months investigating standards at the Dublin nursing home, said urgent attention much now be given to the whole system of nursing home care. He said he was also extremely concerned at the delay in appointing 30 senior healthcare workers to deal with the abuse of elderly people, especially as funding for their posts had been approved by Health Minister Mary Harney as far back as May 2005.

He told a recent health conference that the appointments were critical because it is estimated that up to 20,000 elderly people suffer some form of abuse every year. This can include physical, psychological, financial or even sexual abuse. Professor O’Neill said as far as he was aware only one or two senior healthcare workers’ positions had been filled.

“For 95% of the country, there is no senior healthcare worker. This is a ridiculous situation. It is deeply disturbing,” Prof O’Neill said. In the absence of a senior healthcare worker, he said it was hard to see what was being done about cases of elderly abuse.

The professor, who works at the Department of Gerontology at TCD and at the Adelaide and Meath hospitals, said he had sent a draft report to the HSE last February and the completed version in April.

Fine Gael spokesman on Health, Fergus O’Dowd, said: “The lack of Government urgency on the report is staggering.”

Robin Webster, chief executive of Age Action Ireland, said the sooner the report is published on Leas Cross, the sooner systems can be put in place to ensure similar incidents don’t happen again.

A Freedom of Information request obtained by Fine Gael showed the HSE had advised Leas Cross management on June 8, 2005, that they needed at least 20 more nurses to provide an appropriate standard of care.