Health watchdog criticised over failure to pass on 700 complaints to Ombudsman

Hiqa has undertaken to ensure relevant complaints are now handed over

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall (above) “couldn’t believe” complaints were not passed to his office, according to Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall (above) “couldn’t believe” complaints were not passed to his office, according to Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The health watchdog body has undertaken to improve its procedures after it emerged nearly 700 complaints of sub-standard care and alleged mistreatment were not passed onto the ombudsman last year.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) received 680 complaints relating to individual nursing home residents in 2017 which it did not pass on despite the existence of a memorandum of understanding allowing for the transfer of such complaints.

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall “couldn’t believe” the complaints were not passed to his office, according to Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd, who obtained the figures.

The figures, which were released after a Freedom of Information request, state 18 complaints related to deaths and 57 related to falls and serious injuries.

Inadequate or insufficient staffing was the subject of 46 complaints while 19 related to residents living in sub-standard conditions. There were eight complaints relating to assaults, five in relation to sexual assaults and ten of financial abuse.

Another 134 complaints related to a general lack of care or compassion. “Every single issue you could think of is probably in there,” Mr O’Dowd said.

This week Mr Tyndall met Hiqa management which undertook to forward all nursing home complaints relevant to the Ombudsman to his office in the future.

It is understood Hiqa did not pass on the complaints last year due to concerns about data protection issues. It has now been assured that data protection is not an issue as long as the complainant consents to their allegations being passed on.

Mr Tyndall became involved in the matter last week after RTÉ’s This Week programme reported on the 680 complaints. He requested an urgent meeting with the health watchdog on the failure to pass them on.

Mr O’Dowd told The Irish Times on Sunday he was “shocked” when he learned that data was not being shared with the Ombudsman’s office in line with the memorandum of association.

On Wednesday he met Mr Tyndall who told him he “couldn’t believe it,” Mr O’Dowd said.

Hiqa only has authority to investigate facilities; it cannot investigate individual complaints and must refer them on.

The 680 complaints it received came from unsolicited contacts from members of the public including patients and patient’s families. The Office of the Ombudsman itself received 63 complaints directly relating to nursing homes.

“We’ve had a meeting with Hiqa and they’ve now given us assurances that complaints that are appropriate will be transferred over to ourselves,” a spokesman for the Ombudsman said on Sunday.

He said not all complaints relating to individuals in nursing homes will be within the remit of the Ombudsman. Some, such as assaults on patients, will be matters for the HSE.

Mr O’Dowd said Hiqa has also undertaken to review its memorandums of association with all bodies under its remit.

A spokesman for Hiqa declined to comment except to say “a productive meeting” with the Ombudsman had taken place.