Sisters of Charity-run facilities heavily criticised in Hiqa reports

HSE sought court’s help with aspects of transition of Cork centre to new provider

The Health Service Executive is seeking a new service provider to run a centre for people with intellectual disabilities in Cork following two highly critical Hiqa reports into the facility when it was operated by the Sisters of Charity.

A spokeswoman told The Irish Times "the process is well under way".

This is the second Sisters of Charity health service against which the HSE has moved following recent severely critical Hiqa reports.

The religious order is at the centre of controversy over plans for it to become the sole owner of the new National Maternity Hospital at St Vincent’s hospital campus in Dublin.


The HSE confirmed that in June 2015 the District Court in Kilkenny granted an order to Hiqa to cancel the registration of Our Lady’s Unit at the St Patrick’s Centre there, run by the Sisters of Charity, due to concerns over fire safety. The court appointed the HSE as registered provider.

In a more recent case last month, the HSE sought the court’s help with aspects of the transition to a new provider at the Sisters of Charity-run St Vincent’s Centre for people with intellectual disabilities in Cork city, following two highly critical Hiqa reports*.

However, the application was dismissed by the District Court.

Confirming this to The Irish Times, the HSE said the St Vincent's Centre "was operated by a company established by the Sisters of Charity" which "withdrew from service delivery following negative Hiqa reports".

Continuing care

However, subsequent attempts by the HSE to direct the board at St Vincent’s “to provide certain assurances for the continuing care of the residents (in advance of the cancellation of the Hiqa registration of the premises)” failed when “the court declined to intervene”.

Arrangements were in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents, it said.

The latest Hiqa inspection at the centre was on September 15th last, when there were 50 people resident, 15 of whom had significant healthcare needs.

A subsequent Hiqa report found “the assessed needs of residents were not being met”, that “an allegation of abuse had not been reported to the person in charge, or appropriately investigated, as required”, and that “alleged financial irregularities in the centre” had been received.

It also found that “recommended medical treatment was not being facilitated”, that “management arrangements could not ensure effective governance”, and that “the numbers, qualifications and skill mix of staff was not appropriate to the assessed needs of residents”.

The report identified “major” non-compliance in five areas at the centre: social care needs; safeguarding and safety; healthcare needs; governance and management; and workforce.

No jurisdiction

At a hearing in Cork District Court on March 27th, Felix McEnroy SC for St Vincent’s said the HSE was looking for something the district court had no jurisdiction to give. He told the court: “I say it is illegal and demonstrably illegal and I do not make that statement lightly.”

The parties failed to agree terms on the centre’s future. Judge Aingil Ní Chondúin said that without consent she could not make an order imposing the HSE conditions. She dismissed the HSE application.

In relation to Our Lady’s Unit at the St Patrick’s Centre, Kilkenny, which provides residential services for people with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities, Hiqa inspectors raised concerns about fire safety there, including the presence of locked exit doors, uneven surfaces and the lack of fire alarms.

Other serious issues raised related to the handling of residents’ personal belonging, management of challenging behaviour, unexplained injuries and under-staffing.

The HSE was directed to take charge of the unit. A new board of management was appointed in April 2016 and, according to the HSE statement to The Irish Times, a "2017 service level arrangement provides for an allocation of €16.4 million for the delivery of services as provided by over 300 staff".

*This article was amended on Saturday April 22nd, 2017.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times