Age Action has expressed concern at the serious understaffing at a Sligo community hospital, cited in court as a contributory factor in the assault in which a nurse taped the mouth of a resident.
A judge was told this week that the nurse at St John’s Community Hospital in Sligo had a “dangerous workload” at the time he had taped the mouth of a resident, who he said was shouting. The HSE, which runs the hospital, acknowledged that there was a staff shortage on the day in question last June, but noted that staff ratios had since been reviewed on the ward where the assault took place and recommended ratios were now in place.
However, Age Action is concerned that concerns about staffing levels at the hospital had been highlighted in a series of HIQA inspection reports about the facility, dating back to April 2011 – more than two years before the assault occurred.
Following an inspection of the facility on April 5, 6 and 7, 2011, it warned that there were insufficient staff levels to meet the needs of residents. It called for an “immediate review” of staffing levels and the roles of care staff, in line with the dependency needs of residents to ensure appropriate levels of supervision and care for residents.
In another inspection report in October, 2012, HIQA stated that the “provider acknowledged that the staffing levels were below what was deemed good practice, but he was working to get staffing levels increased.” Concerns about inadequate staffing levels were also highlighted in HIQA inspection reports published last July and October.
“Nothing can excuse the nurse’s action in taping the mouth of a vulnerable, helpless resident, and we praise the actions of the colleague who raised the alarm, and the HSE’s response in alerting the Gardai and HIQA,” Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said. “However, the systemic failings cited as contributing to the nurse’s actions, were known about for at least two years beforehand.”
The older people’s charity is calling for HIQA and all nursing home owners to work to provide clarity around the HIQA standard relating to staffing levels. Resources must then be provided to ensure this standard is met, and that staff are adequately supported.
“With entry age of people going into residential care rising, and increasing numbers of residents with dementia expected in the coming years, the provision of quality nursing home care is going to become more and more demanding,” Mr Timmins said. “Staffing levels and staffing support has to be properly funded so that nursing home residents are protected and can receive high quality care.”