HSE sues regulator over beds at Co Cork nursing home
Case taken over reduction of three beds at Midleton home with large multibed rooms
The HSE has brought Hiqa to court over a reduction in the number of registered beds at the 53-bed Midleton Community Hospital by three. Photograph: Alan Betson
The HSE is taking a legal action against the State’s health service regulator to challenge an order to reduce the number of beds at a second Co Cork nursing home.
The health service has brought the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) to court over a reduction in the number of registered beds at the 53-bed Midleton Community Hospital by three.
It is the second HSE-run nursing home in Co Cork to be subject to a District Court action by the executive this year.
The HSE previously brought a legal action over a direction to reduce the number of beds at Clonakilty Community Hospital permitted by the nursing home regulator.
The case is due for mention in Mallow District Court on Monday.
Hiqa declined to comment on the case. A spokeswoman for the HSE said that as the matter was before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment.
The regulator has raised concerns about the number of multi-occupancy rooms at the Midleton nursing home in inspection reports over recent years.
In the most recent report, published in March following an inspection in October 2019, Hiqa inspectors found that there had been insufficient progress made in improving the quality of life for residents in two large multi-occupancy rooms, six living in one and seven living in another.
The watchdog said that the two rooms also functioned as corridors to access the two main day rooms in that part of the centre.
“Many residents in the centre still did not have access to adequate communal and day space, could not store many personal possessions and could not personalise their living space,” Hiqa said in the inspection report.
“The lived experience of these residents was adversely impacted on by the inevitable institutional practices that prevail in such environments.”
Midleton Community Hospital was one of 19 HSE-run care facilities of older people that Hiqa warned the HSE and Department of Health in mid-March were at “high risk” during the coronavirus pandemic because of the challenge in isolating residents to prevent the spread of the disease.
“Our assessment considered the combination of the physical premises within which these centres are accommodated and the number of residents living in these centres – combined to create a situation where isolating for the purpose of preventing the spread of infection is extremely difficult and nearly impossible,” Hiqa chief inspector Mary Dunnion told the HSE.
An internal HSE report showed no confirmed or suspected coronavirus deaths at Midleton.
Nursing homes have been asked to increase the percentage of single-occupancy rooms in their facilities, though the then minister for health Simon Harris signed a statutory instrument in 2016 delaying a regulation to have 80 per cent single-room occupancy until 2021.
Meeting the regulation has proven a challenge for some nursing homes, particularly older care facilities like the HSE-run nursing homes in Midleton and Clonakilty.
The Department of Health told the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee last month that it would be difficult to meet this regulation given the impact of the pandemic on the construction sector.
“The HSE was already challenged to make it in respect of all facilities,” said Jim Breslin, secretary general of the department.