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Television Investigation Exposes Abuses At Irish Nursing Homes
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 8, 2005

DUBLIN, IRELAND--Last week, the Irish television program "Prime Time" broadcast an investigation into widespread abuse and neglect in the country's nursing homes.

As part of the exposé, the program sent an experienced nursing assistant undercover to pose as a new aide at the 111-bed Leas Cross nursing home. With a hidden video camera, the aide documented multiple incidents of resident abuse, intimidation, improper restraint, forced medications, and medical neglect.

Experts featured on the program, who commented after reviewing the video-tape, called the treatment "improper", "inappropriate", "horrifying" and "disturbing".

A lack of adequate, well-trained staff is being blamed for the problems, along with the agency that is supposed to monitor nursing facilities. For example, nursing homes are often notified in advance of inspections, the investigators found.

Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach or head of Ireland's government, responded by rejecting criticism of the local Health Board's nursing home inspection system.

The Prime Time program also featured the case of Peter McKenna, a 60-year-old resident with Down syndrome who -- because he was a ward of the government -- was sent to Leas Cross against the wishes of his family.

"The physicians, one after another, got up in the court and described Lees Cross as if Peter was going to Disneyland," said his sister, Mary Moore. "We had no option but to take the court's verdict."

McKenna died in 2001 from septicemia (blood poisoning) after developing an infection.

"You wouldn't do it to a dog," said his brother, Dan Moore.

A government report into McKenna's death was completed in March of this year. It has not yet been published nor shared with McKenna's family.

Tuesday's Irish Examiner published an editorial by columnist Fergus Finlay in which he called for the government to release the document.

"This report must be published," wrote Finlay. "There must be no question of any legal devices being employed to prevent publication or to water down its contents."

"Perhaps the system will recognise, just for once, that the death of a vulnerable citizen and the circumstances surrounding it should be an occasion of openness and shame, rather than yet more secrecy and 'due process.'"

Many advocates say that one answer to the problem is to shift long-term care away from large nursing institutions and toward in-home services.

"What has to happen is that the community care becomes very, very strong so that you only go into a nursing home in the final analysis or when it is most appropriate for you to do so," said Paul Murray, Director of Communications for Age Action Ireland.

"Because of the bad and lack of community care, poor domiciliary care, difficulty getting public health nurses, difficulty in getting occupational therapists, difficulty in getting people's houses adapted properly, people are going to nursing homes who perhaps shouldn't have to go to nursing homes."

[Editor's caution: You may find some of the graphic video to be quite disturbing. I did. -- Dave]

"Home Truths" (Prime Time Investigates) [Real Video clip requires free RealPlayer]
"Fallout from Prime Time nursing home probe" (Prime Time Investigates) [Real Video clip requires free RealPlayer]
"Ahern rejects criticism of nursing home inspections regime" (Ireland Online)
"Peter died in agony because he wasn't even a second-class citizen" (Irish Examiner)


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