Advocacy groups have expressed shock at the fact that 4,246 cases of serious injury to nursing home residents were reported by nursing homes to to the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) last year.
The authority’s annual overview, published yesterday, stated that 525 nursing homes had notified it of serious injury to residents, in keeping with their legal obligations. Some 195 centres reported 373 cases of alleged, suspected or confirmed abuse of a resident, while 59 centres reported 95 allegations of misconduct by nursing home staff or employers.
Last year 99 nursing homes reported the “unexplained absence” of residents on 171 occasions. Asked if all residents had returned safely, a Hiqa spokesman said that was not recorded in the report. There were two well-documented cases of older people going missing from nursing homes in Dublin and Galway last year but in both cases they were found safe and well.
In 2005, nursing home resident Maura Reynolds (78) left the Tara Care Centre in Bray on the night of Christmas Day. Her remains were found in dense undergrowth at Bray Head in 2008.
Seán Moynihan, chief executive of Alone, the charity that supports older people in need, said he was shocked at Hiqa’s findings. “These shocking statistics released by Hiqa further illustrate the need for more audits, further training and higher standards in Irish nursing homes. Once again we must call into question the consistency of care in Ireland’s public and private nursing homes,” he said.
Mr Moynihan said a proper standard of care in old age was a right, not a privilege.
“We are grateful to Hiqa for bringing these figures to light, and we acknowledge that many of Ireland’s nursing homes are providing an adequate level of service but much more work needs to be done to bring the industry as a whole up to standard,” he said. He also urged people who had concerns about the well-being of an older person in a nursing home to contact Hiqa or Alone.
Age Action expressed concern at the high level of reports of serious injury to older people. Its spokesman Eamon Timmins said it was also worrying that there were 373 notifications of alleged, suspected or confirmed abuse.
“The report not only highlights the great need which exists for an independent inspection authority, but also the need for nursing home management across Ireland to improve their service when it comes to issues of health and safety and risk management,” Mr Timmins said.
“This must involve training and supervision of staff and strict adherence to the required procedures and protocols,” he added.
The Irish Patients’ Association highlighted the fact that a fifth of the actions ordered by Hiqa involved risk management and health and safety. Its spokesman Stephen McMahon said Hiqa should provide a breakdown to contrast the performance of centres run by the Health Service Executive, privately operated homes and HSE-funded centres.
Hiqa’s chief inspector of social services Phelim Quinn said health and safety of residents was an area of “specific concern” to the authority and it would be focusing on this area in the coming months.
78 per cent of Hiqa inspections were unannounced
8,697 actions required for compliance with the regulations
Nursing homes reported the deaths of 184 residents under 70 years
293 cases of infectious disease outbreaks were notified to Hiqa
4,246 cases of serious injury to a resident were reported to Hiqa
171 unexplained absences of residents were reported
373 cases of alleged, suspected or confirmed abuse of a resident reported
95 allegations of misconduct by staff or employers