Less than 2% of disability centres pass Hiqa test

Inspections show just three of 190 centres comply with regulations

Dr Tracey Cooper, Hiqa chief executive. Photograph: Eric Luke.

Dr Tracey Cooper, Hiqa chief executive. Photograph: Eric Luke.

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 08:00

Less than 2 per cent of nearly 200 hundred residential centres for people with disabilities complied fully with regulations when checked by inspectors.

Just three of 190 centres in which inspections were carried out by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) were found to be fully compliant with all aspects of the regulations.

And almost 20 per cent were deemed to have failed to fully comply with any of the regulations.

A sample of the issues identified by inspectors includes a large number of “major” non-compliances relating to fire safety and other health and safety concerns.

There were also issues about staffing levels. In one centre inspectors were told residents could often be found “walking up and down the hall” waiting for staff to become free to assist them.

Concerns were also expressed about staff training and the proper usage of restraints, including bed rails, belts and lap belts.

Inadequate space and privacy issues also arose. In one centre for adult residents baby monitors were in use which inspectors found to be infringing on the residents’ right to privacy.

Issues with the environment in which the residents were housed were also raised. In one case a centre built more than 30 years ago was found to be unsuitable for residents’ needs, with the majority of fixtures and fittings requiring replacement or repair, while communal areas in a centre for residents with autism were not sufficiently clean with mould on walls in a kitchen and bedroom.

The findings come after a highly critical inspection report published last month of the HSE-run Áras Attracta centre in Swinford, Co Mayo. An inspection was carried out early this year after Hiqa was informed of the death of former resident Albert Loughney (72) whose postmortem listed extreme dehydration and malnutrition as “severe contributory factors” in his death.

Inspectors reported residents going without food for up to 15 hours overnight with some residents visibly underweight during an inspection of the Swinford centre in February. (A subsequent inspection in May found that practices at the centre had “significantly improved”).

However, John Hannigan, chairman of the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies which represents 63 organisations providing supports for people with intellectual disabilities, said instances such as that recorded in the Mayo centre were extremely rare in the Hiqa inspections.

He said many of the non-compliances recorded were about fire and health and safety issues appropriate to an institutional setting , some of which are impractical or prohibitively expensive to implement within a residential setting.

Mr Hannigan said the organisation’s members “unequivocally” welcome the inspection regime.

“However, we have concerns about how the inspectors are interpreting some of the regulations . . . which are based on standards for institutional rather than community settings,” he said, adding that the body has sought a meeting with Hiqa and the Department of Health to discuss this issue.

He also pointed to resource issues with some organisations reporting cuts of 25 per cent to their funding in recent years which he said in some cases has led to non-compliance in the areas of staffing and the built environment: “seven years of withdrawal of funding from the sector has had a huge toll”, he said.