Residents in 40 HSE-run nursing homes living in unsuitable rooms

Residents in shared rooms with no protection from ‘noises or unpleasant odours’

More than 40 nursing homes run by the Health Service Executive (HSE) are housing residents in rooms or buildings that do not meet healthcare standards, according to an internal State watchdog report.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has told the Government that a large number of public nursing homes were failing to comply with new minimum standards for residents' bedrooms.

From the start of this year nursing homes were required to have no more than four residents sharing a room, and provide adequate individual and recreational space for residents.

An internal Hiqa report sent to Minister of State for older people Mary Butler outlined nearly 70 nursing homes were subject to "restrictive conditions", as they did not meet Hiqa standards around bedroom space and the condition of buildings. Forty-three of the homes were run by the HSE, 23 by private providers and a further three by voluntary bodies funded by the State.

Many of the nursing homes were taking steps to address the shortcomings, such as cutting capacity to reduce the numbers of residents sharing rooms, the report stated.

Writing to Ms Butler on January 14th, 2022, Carol Grogan, Hiqa's chief inspector of social services, warned that nursing homes which failed to improve their facilities could face "escalating regulatory action".

The letter, which accompanied the unpublished report, was released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

‘Institutional’ environments

The regulator’s report said nursing home residents were left living in “institutional” environments. Residents in shared rooms had very little privacy while getting dressed or receiving personal care, and often had “no protection from noises or unpleasant odours” it said.

A plan to replace 33 nursing home facilities and refurbish 57 facilities announced in 2016 was running “significantly” behind schedule, it said.

Hiqa said the delays in new nursing home facilities being built had been “well flagged” with the HSE.

The report noted the risks of residents living in shared rooms came to a head during the Covid-19 pandemic, with nursing home residents accounting for a large portion of those who died during outbreaks of the virus.

Some residents and staff were concerned that refurbishment work to bring older buildings into line with Hiqa regulations would mean plans to move to a new facility would be shelved, the report said.

It said where nursing homes were not brought into line with standards around rooms and building conditions, “escalating regulatory action will be necessary”, which could include shutting down care homes.

The report criticised Cherry Orchard Hospital nursing home for housing residents in four “very poor quality” buildings, which “do not provide acceptable bedroom accommodation, communal or toilet facilities”.

A HSE spokeswoman said many nursing homes were in buildings "in excess of 100 years old", and a programme had been agreed with the Department of Health and Hiqa to bring them into line with required infrastructure standards.

Several facilities had seen reductions in the number of beds to allow for better infection control during Covid-19, as well as “the necessity to improve compliance with Hiqa standards”, she said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times

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