HSE issues apology over Áras Attracta mistreatment

HSE chief Tony O’Brien: Behaviour exposed in RTÉ documentary will not be tolerated

HSE director general Tony O’Brien:  “Such standards should not and will not be tolerated in the HSE.” Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

HSE director general Tony O’Brien: “Such standards should not and will not be tolerated in the HSE.” Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The Health Service Executive has apologised to residents at a Co Mayo disability centre and their families over their mistreatment at the hands of staff.

It described the behaviour, attitude and practice of some staff shown in an RTÉ undercover documentary last night as unacceptable.

All the recommendations from a recent Health Information and Quality Authority report into Áras Attracta in Swinford had been implemented, it said. “In this regard, it is concerning that unacceptable behaviour and attitudes towards residents, as seen in the footage, continued in unit 3 until the allegations were made known.”

HSE director general Tony O’Brien added: “Much of what was viewed on Prime Time falls well below the standards that we expect in the health services. Such standards should not and will not be tolerated in the HSE.”

While the HSE has ordered an investigation under an independent chairman, Inclusion Ireland said this would not be enough to restore public confidence. The organisation said it was not appropriate for the social care division alone to investigate its own service.

Responsibility for the mistreatment of residents at the centre goes “right up” to the top of the HSE, according to a special needs group.

“I don’t think the HSE at higher levels can abdicate responsibility and just put full blame on those staff.

“The buck does not stop with the people on the ground,” said Lorraine Dempsey of the Special Needs Parents Association, who appeared in the documentary.

“People with disabilities in these institutional settings have been hidden. For decades, this is one of these historic legacies which is a scandal that Ireland yet again is choosing to just keep down.”

Abuse

Other experts contributing to the programme unequivocally describe the secretly filmed scenes from the home as abuse.

“I’ve seen footage like this before but to be frank, it’s from eastern Europe, not Ireland and I feel ashamed about this,” said Prof Gerard Quinn, director of the centre for disability law in NUI Galway.

“I am absolutely stuck for words,” said Prof Owen Barr, head of the school of nursing, University of Ulster.

“It’s entirely unacceptable that individual members of staff behave in this way, equally unacceptable that an organisation could have a facility that behaves like this, and them not know about it.”