Shoddy con­trols on cash ex­posed at nurs­ing home

En­velopes with res­i­dents’ money found in safe with no record of who owned them — and ques­tions also raised over do­na­tions

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - NEWS - Maeve Sheehan

CASH and other valu­ables be­long­ing to res­i­dents of a pub­lic nurs­ing home were at risk of go­ing miss­ing be­cause of weak fi­nan­cial con­trols.

Au­di­tors for the Health Ser­vice Ex­ec­u­tive (HSE) found en­velopes of cash in a safe at the home, with noth­ing to in­di­cate who owned the money or the sums they con­tained, nor was there any reg­is­ter list­ing which res­i­dents had handed over be­long­ings for safe­keep­ing.

Other en­velopes that did iden­tify the res­i­dent were found to be empty.

The au­di­tors’ re­port raises con­cerns over the safe­guards in place to pro­tect res­i­dents’ pri­vate prop­erty in pub­lic nurs­ing homes. The HSE-run nurs­ing home was not named in the au­di­tors’ re­port but is in the south east.

How­ever, in a state­ment this week­end, the HSE said “no im­pro­pri­ety” had been es­tab­lished. “How­ever, the HSE wishes to as­sure the pub­lic that cor­rec­tive steps were un­der­taken to ad­dress all is­sues,” the state­ment added.

The au­dit re­port, which was com­pleted last Septem­ber, said there was “a risk” that if clients died or were dis­charged their prop­erty might not be ap­pro­pri­ately iden­ti­fied and re­turned.

Nor were au­di­tors happy that the en­velopes of cash were kept in the safe along­side the prop­erty of de­ceased res­i­dents and fundrais­ing do­na­tions.

In one case, a client who died in 2012 had left a bal­ance of €5,000 in their client ac­count. Au­di­tors who vis­ited last year found no ev­i­dence on file of any cor­re­spon­dence from the home about trans­fer­ring these funds to the client’s es­tate.

In an­other case, cash re­funded by a lo­cal de­part­ment store to a res­i­dent was still sit­ting in the safe a year later. The money should have been lodged in the res­i­dent’s ac­count. The client had died by the time of the au­dit, and the cash had yet to be re­funded to the rel­e­vant le­gal per­sonal rep­re­sen­ta­tive or ex­ecu­tor.

Au­di­tors also dis­cov­ered more than €7,000 in “an un­of­fi­cial HSE bank ac­count” last year. They found the ac­count when they came across a bank state­ment in the hos­pi­tal’s files, with the ac­count name ‘Ma­tron’. Lo­cal man­age­ment and staff said they were un­aware of the ac­count, even though the nurs­ing home had bank state­ments on file. The ac­count, which con­tained €7,377, has since been closed and its funds trans­ferred to the HSE.

Au­di­tors also query the ab­sence of “clear pro­ce­dures” over how do­na­tions to the home were recorded and logged. In one case, a do­na­tion was made to the hos­pi­tal on foot of a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion be­tween ward staff and the rel­a­tives of a pa­tient who had died at the hos­pi­tal. There was a note of the tele­phone call, but no other pa­per­work to sup­port the do­na­tion even though reg­u­la­tions re­quire a writ­ten agree­ment.

The HSE said the “en­velopes of cash in the safe” had since been logged and cred­ited to their own­ers, while funds be­long­ing to the de­ceased res­i­dent had been trans­ferred to the HSE. The money in the bank ac­count was do­nated for a day cen­tre ser­vice.

The Irish Pa­tients’ As­so­ci­a­tion said the au­di­tors’ find­ings were “wor­ry­ing” and “dis­ap­point­ing”. Chair­man Stephen McMa­hon said they raised se­ri­ous con­cerns for res­i­dents who were vul­ner­a­ble and en­trusted their be­long­ings to the nurs­ing home.

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