Investigation into HSE plan for ending role in care home

Residents’ families say no consultation on proposal to ‘commission out’ management

An investigation into a Health Service Executive plan to end its role in running a home for adults with intellectual disabilities is to be launched by the Ombudsman.

Families of residents of Forest View community house in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, say neither they nor their loved ones were consulted about the plan to “commission out” management of the house to the non-statutory sector.

Forest View, opened three years ago by the HSE to accommodate former residents of St Peter's Centre in the town, is to be taken over by the Muiriosa Foundation, later this year.

Some 43 residents, all with intellectual disabilities, moved from St Peter’s into community houses, managed by the HSE, across the Midlands in 2012. Many of the HSE nurses from St Peter’s work in these community houses, with some having cared for the same people for up to 25 years.

Commissioned out

Forest View, home to five residents, is one of four houses being “commissioned out” by the HSE to Muiriosa Foundation, formerly the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. In all, 21 people with intellectual disabilities in the Midlands will be affected by the change, which will see their HSE nursing staff being replaced by Muiriosa nurses.

A HSE spokeswoman said: “This decision was based on a number of factors, primarily however the difficulties in filling staff vacancies across the services, the consequence of which is an over-reliance on agency staff. This poses a significant risk . . .”

The changes come in advance of inspection reports to be published by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) early in 2016, of HSE disability services in the Midlands. They are expected to highlight nursing staff cover.

Families who have spoken to The Irish Times, however, say they are "very happy" with the standard of HSE nursing care in Forest View. The prospect of these nurses leaving is "very worrying" and "alarming".

Paddy Sheridan (54), who has epilepsy, intellectual disability and cannot talk, has been in institutional care since 1974. His sisters, Mary and Alice, say the nurses in Forest View know him better than they do.

"They are his family," says Mary. "They know his likes and dislikes – that he likes to watch Coronation Street, that he likes to sit up high in the bus and look out the window, that he likes his drinks not hot or cold but in between, that he loves old-time music."

Anne-Marie Walsh's brother, Martin Moore, has been resident first in St Peter's and then at Forest View for almost 10 years. "Martin is non-verbal and solely relies on those who truly know him and have the expertise and experience to meet his needs and personality really well."

They say they were not told about the HSE plan until November and there was no opportunity to challenge the decision.

According Hiqa’s National Standards for Residential Services for Children and Adults with Disabilities, people “must be consulted about and make decisions about the services and supports they receive . . . Their views must be actively and regularly sought . . .”

According to Mary Sheridan, following her complaint to the Ombudsman's office, an investigator was appointed on December 23rd. A spokeswoman for the office said, though she could not confirm this "for confidentiality reasons . . . this office does investigate complaints about the HSE including hospitals, residential services and nursing homes".

The HSE spokeswoman said: “The care of clients is of paramount importance . . . The indicative timeframe for Muiriosa assuming responsibility for these houses is April 2016.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times