Louth disability care units face closure following Hiqa report

Inspction at Drumcar facility found residents being ‘inappropriately managed’

Report found residents were inappropriately charged for medical treatment and devices such as dexa scans and hip protectors.

A number of units in a State-run residential campus in Co Louth have been deemed not fit for purpose by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and could reportedly face closure.

In a statement, Hiqa said it had "initiated an enforcement process in line with their legal powers" as a result of "serious concerns for the safety and care of residents" at a centre for people with disabilities on the St John of God campus near the village of Drumcar, Co Louth.

Hiqa representatives have carried out more than 40 inspections of the units at the campus over the past two years. There are currently eight units in operation at the St Mary’s campus in Drumcar with a total of 114 registered beds.

Hiqa has reportedly issued notice of its proposal to close four of the units at the campus, according to Thursday's RTÉ Investigates programme.


An inspection of the facility in January 2017 found residents were being “inappropriately managed” and that three residents had to be removed from the centre for up to 12 hours a day to protect them from assault by other residents.

Inspectors described staffing arrangements at the facility as “inadequate” and warned that residents in need of high levels of care and support were being left unsupervised and were at “risk of injury and assault”.

Rivergrove House
A report released late on Thursday into Rivergrove House, which is part of the Drumcar service but is situated away from the campus in the village, highlighted serious concerns regarding the "privacy and dignity" of residents and "inappropriate charges" for medical treatments.

It warned that residents were exposed to “an unacceptable level of risk from peer to peer assault” and that the level of infection control was also unacceptable.

Two residents at the Rivergrove centre were forced to share a bedroom against their wishes resulting in “verbal aggression and intimidation” from one of the occupants. The report also found that residents were inappropriately charged for medical treatment and devices such as dexa scans and hip protectors.

Hiqa contacted the gardaí following the inspection regarding the misuse of finances and reported the centre as “unsafe”.

‘Major compliance’ issues

The Drumcar facility has been the focus of controversy for a number of years following numerous reports which have highlighted “major compliance” issues in the housing and care of residents on the campus.

A 2015 inspection found that residents at the Co Louth centre were repeatedly locked into the bungalow unsupervised.

A 2016 inspection found irregularities in the management of finances on campus with residents being charged inappropriately for medical devices and interventions.

The St John of God community service group agreed to provide a detailed plan in response to these irregularities to move residents in more suitable community settings.

However, the recent January 2017 inspection of the campus found the proposed plan had not been implemented and that no residents had been moved from the campus to more suitable settings.

Sinn Féin leader and TD for Louth Gerry Adams expressed his concern following the report into the conditions at the centre at Drumcar that closure of units could mean "further confusion, uncertainty and worry for the residents of these units and their families".

He said he planned to contact Minister for Health Simon Harris seeking "urgent action" to address the shortcomings in care and housing at the centre.

“Once again, St John of God has failed people with disabilities in Co Louth,” said Mr Adams. “The HSE must act to ensure that the safety and comfort of residents is guaranteed.

“It is grossly unfair that the most vulnerable in our society must constantly campaign and fight to access services which should be theirs by right.”

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast