Suspended care home owner gets post
THE OWNER of a Kilkenny nursing home who is accused of reckless abandonment of residents and theft of money from clients has received clearance to practise as a nurse in Australia.
Miriam Holmes, who ran the Avondale nursing home with her daughter Hayley, left the State the day after the facility was shut down on foot of a court order.
The Irish Times reported earlier this year that Ms Holmes and her daughter were subsequently involved in running a 90-bed nursing home in Melbourne, Australia. Her employment was terminated last January.
Ms Holmes has since taken up a new post in a 30-bed nursing home in Wonthaggi, about 130km (81 miles) southeast of Melbourne.
Armitage House nursing home, owned by Bass Coast Regional Health, describes itself as a “high care facility that offers the highest possible standards of residential aged care. Care is delivered in a supportive, warm environment adjacent to Wonthaggi Hospital.”
Ms Holmes was unavailable for comment at the facility yesterday, while her solicitor in Ireland did not respond to requests for comment over the weekend.
She and her daughter were suspended from the nursing register in Ireland by An Bord Altranais last October.
Following media reports last January, the local regulatory body for nurses in Australia investigated their status. It imposed a number of conditions on their registration the following month.
Both are now required to advise the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency of the outcome of any investigations or decisions regarded their registration as nurses in Ireland. They are also obliged to notify nursing authorities of any posts they take up as nurses within seven days.
It is unclear whether there is an ongoing investigation by An Bord Altranais regarding the registration of both nurses, given that they were suspended last year.
The organisation said this weekend it could not comment for legal reasons, except to confirm that their registration in Ireland remains suspended.
A Garda investigation, meanwhile, into allegations of theft and “reckless abandonment of patients” is continuing. A spokesman said a file was being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Through her solicitor Patrick Moylan, Ms Holmes has rejected the allegations and has pledged to assist gardaí with their investigation. “I have spoken to the investigation team and she has offered her assistance. If they need her for interviews, she will deal with that,” Mr Moylan said earlier this year.
He also said Ms Holmes maintained that any problems with the running of the home in Kilkenny were due to issues relating to the solvency of the home.
“She disputes the allegation of reckless abandonment. She says the company, Avondale Nursing Home Ltd, became insolvent and there was a risk that staff would not be paid.”
He declined to comment on why she left the State at short notice or why employees were left without several weeks’ back pay. Two employees at Avondale were awarded €38,000 in compensation after an Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled they were constructively dismissed from the facility.
The pair could also face prosecution by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) for breaches of regulations designed to keep vulnerable residents safe.
Under the 2007 Health Act, the authority may bring prosecutions against nursing home owners who breach care regulations. The maximum penalty is a €70,000 fine or a two-year prison term.