CCTV monitoring may be last resort to ensure elderly get proper care
APART from leaving television viewers feeling profoundly shocked, Prime Time’s Aras Attracta probe last week also left the country feeling completely helpless.
The scenes inside Bungalow 3 at the Swinford home, captured on undercover video footage, were heart-breaking in the extreme. Viewers were distressed by what they witnessed but that was nothing, of course, compared to what the residents of the home were put through and for God knows how long. If nothing else, RTE has earned its licence fee by exposing the shocking treatment experienced by these vulnerable individuals.
The feeling of helplessness watching all this was made keener by the fact the safeguards put in place by the State had clearly failed these women.The HSE was charged with meeting the needs of the Aras Attracta residents. But care assistants were shown to humiliate, neglect and manhandle their charges in unit three of the Swinford care home. This was despite the fact that that the health standards watchdog, HIQA, had inspected the facility twice previously. It found a number of shortcomings, but not the abuse uncovered by Prime Time’s investigative unit.
In the immediate aftermath of the programme, Ministers Leo Varadkar and Kathleen Lynch stated they could not be confident such behaviour is not going on in other care homes – not that they could have said otherwise, given the evidence emanating from Aras Attracta.
Sadly, the revelations about one particular home were met with scores of concerns about numerous others homes across the State as details of the 430 complaints received by HIQA about nursing homes this year emerged in the immediate aftermath of the Prime Time broadcast.
Some of these allegations suggest individuals in other homes faced even greater cruelty, in some instances, than the residents of Bungalow 3 at Aras Attracta. Many were made by staff deeply concerned at the conditions in which they were forced to work. Combined, the complaints point to a care sector culture that is deeply antagonistic of the work of HIQA, with some of the allegations stating various homes falsified documents and bumped up staffing levels prior to HIQA inspections.
Minister Fergus O’Dowd, who obtained these details, has said ‘ the wool is being pulled over HIQA’s eyes’. For its part, HIQA says it is hampered by the legislation governing its operations from investigating particular complaints, among other concerns it has. One glaring question however, is why on earth care homes receive notification about upcoming inspections? More than a fifth of all inspections in care homes last year were carried out after the homes received prior notification.
Meanwhile, there exists deep confusion between agencies as to the optimal procedures for policing care in homes, something that surely requires root-and-branch reform of the sector and the safeguards governing it. And the State should take RTE’s lead at the very least by installing CCTV cameras in each and every centre nationally to leave staff in no doubt their care is being monitored very closely indeed.