Gardaí investigate death of Áras Attracta resident

Dehydration and malnutrition listed as ‘factors’ in death of 72-year-old disabled man

Hiqa chief executive Phelim Quinn: said the HSE put in new management arrangements and convinced Hiqa the systems in place ensured better protection for residents. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Hiqa chief executive Phelim Quinn: said the HSE put in new management arrangements and convinced Hiqa the systems in place ensured better protection for residents. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Gardaí have sent a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions about the death of a resident of the Áras Attracta disability centre in Swinford, Co Mayo, two years ago.

The centre is the focus of controversy after footage was broadcast on RTÉ’s Prime Time showing residents being mistreated by staff members.

Dehydration and malnutrition were cited in postmortem results as “severe contributory factors” in the death of Albert Loughney (72), a long-term intellectually disabled resident at the centre. He died in November 2012 after being transferred from Áras Attracta to Mayo General Hospital. The Irish Times understands postmortem results listed the cause of death as sepsis due to acute bronchitis and bronchopneumonia, with “severe contributing factors of extreme dehydration and malnutrition”.

Concerns over the nutrition of some residents at the centre sparked an investigation by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) last February. This resulted in a highly critical report which found some residents were visibly underweight and had gone without food for up to 15 hours.

Hiqa’s report found some residents were not offered assistance in an “appropriate and dignified” manner at meals and expressed concern over staffing levels. A follow-up inspection in May found practices had “significantly improved” as regards nutrition, and an effective management system had been put in place.

Hiqa has said its initial report raised concerns about the standard of care at the home. Phelim Quinn, Hiqa’s chief executive, said the HSE put in new management arrangements and convinced Hiqa the systems in place ensured better protection for residents. Noel Giblin, a member of of the Psychiatric Nurses Association who worked at Áras Attracta, said management had failed to act on concerns about staffing levels and other matters raised in 2008 and 2010.

“What we saw on Prime Time was not the first time this kind of behaviour occurred . . . I drew attention to practices in particular bungalows over the care of particularly vulnerable clients . . . I was met with obstacles and aggression.”

Separately, it has emerged management at the centre was alerted to allegations over the abuse of residents by staff as long ago as 2005.

A formal complaint alleging physical abuse by a care worker was made nine years ago, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. An internal investigation into the complaint was conducted by management. It concluded the allegation had not been substantiated.