Families defend care at Owenriff nursing home after HIQA release damning report
Owenriff nursing home. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy
By Martina Nee
A Co Galway nursing home hit the headlines this week after a Health Information and Quality Authority report revealed how inspectors had serious concerns for the care and welfare of residents, however the family of two residents have defended the level of care provided.
The running of Owenriff nursing home at Camp Street, Oughterard, is currently being undertaken by the Health Services Executive after a court order cancelling the registration of service provider Riverside Nursing Home Ltd, a company with three directors - Theresa O'Toole (54), of Waterfield, Oughterard, Co Galway, and her daughters Kimberley and Melanie of Creevagh, Tuam, Galway - was upheld despite an appeal attempt. Contrary to reports, a spokesperson for HIQA told the Advertiser yesterday that there are no plans to close the nursing home which currently provides a service to 20 residents. The court order directed the HSE to take over the running of the nursing home on an interim basis while alternative arrangements for residents is found or a new private service provider is secured.
Court proceedings were initiated following a HIQA inspection of the nursing home on April 20 and 21 this year which revealed a number of care and staffing issues, including some residents being left unkempt or without a bath or shower for a month. However, the findings are being described as confusing for the family of some of the residents with Mayor of County Galway, Cllr Thomas Welby - who has two elderly uncles residing in the home - insisting that “generally, a lot of people are happy with the level of care”.
Speaking yesterday Cllr Welby said: “I have two uncles in the home, one of them is the longest resident there, seven years, and if things were that bad we wouldn’t be leaving them there. There is a lot of confusement. Some of the staff are very concerned too as the report puts them in a very bad light.”
It is understood that a number of families, with relatives receiving care in Owenriff, appeared as character witnesses for the former owners during the recent court case in which an appeal was heard. However, this is at odds with the findings of the report.
At the time of the inspection there had been 22 residents receiving long-term care with some having cognitive impairment and dementia related conditions. It was discovered that many of the problems which were highlighted following an inspection conducted in March of this year had not been addressed and that there was an on-going risk to residents. The report revealed a number of areas for concern including the person in charge described as being disorganised, and the nursing documentation to be out of date and in some cases not relevant to the current status of the resident. Inspectors were also “gravely” concerned with the staffing levels and skill-mix finding it to be inadequate in meeting the needs of the residents and ensuring their safety. Further reading of the report revealed even more serious issues with the level of care provided.
One particularly worrying section of the report stated: “Staff appeared hurried with no time for conversation with residents. Some residents were noted to be in bed very late in the morning, one resident was seen having his breakfast at the dinner table at 11.40am, he was left at the table and remained there until his dinner was served at 12.30pm...Throughout the inspection residents were noted to be unkempt and their hair not brushed or combed. Some residents’ clothes were not ironed while many residents’ clothes were dirty. Residents’ finger nails were not cared for and required cleaning and trimming. Male residents were unshaved. There was a ‘bowel/shower’ book in use, this indicated that the majority of residents did not have a bath or shower in the previous month instead ‘sponge’ was recorded.”
The provider had told inspectors that there had been difficulty in recruiting staff and that there was considerable reliance on agency staff, many of whom had never worked in the centre previously, and were not familar with the building, the residents, the care processes, and the medications. Inspectors discovered that there was a serious problem with rostering of staff with one incident showing that an agency nurse had not shown up for a shift resulting in another nurse on night duty working 14 hours without a break. The provider had also confirmed that on at least one occasion there had been no nurse on duty in the centre between 10am and 2pm. Many residents were left in bed for longer than they should have been and one staff member was observed standing over a resident while assisting him to eat, prompting an inspector to ask the staff member to sit with the resident, however, the staff member stated she did not have the time.
The report went on to state that “one resident was noted sitting in the dining room calling for assistance, there was no staff member to respond. This resident was unkempt, unshaven, and his eyes were crusted and sore,” and when staff files were checked it was found that many did not contain “the required information such as Garda Siochána vetting, three references, and evidence of medical and physical fitness.”
It was found that residents were given limited access to allied health professionals, and that “no resident had been been referred to physiotherapy, dietetic, or speech and language services”. The inspectors described the quality of life for many of the residents and the provision of activities to be poor. The report noted: “Residents’ bedrooms were sparsely decorated, with many having no pictures, photographs, or personal mementos... Many residents were isolated in their bedrooms with no interaction or conversation for very long periods of time during the day... Some practises in place were insitutional and undignified for residents.” The inspectors were so concerned in relation to the standard of care to residents that the provider was asked on April 21, 2012 to consent to the agent of the HSE carrying out clinical assessments on the residents.
Other issues included hot water in hand basins being “scalding to the touch” while water in some bedrooms was cold, cleaning agents and chemicals were stored in unsecured bathrooms, on trolleys, and in the laundry, chemical waste bins were left under one staircase, one resident’s bedroom was “notably very cold”, and inspectors could “clearly see and smell soiled continence wear which had been left in open black bags and bins, unattended, and accessible on corridors posing a serious infection control risk”. It was found that water and drinks were not freely available or easily accessible to residents particularly dependent residents isolated in bedrooms, and that some meals were “of a brown colour” and were “unappetising and unappealing for anyone”. The report concluded that the “inspectors were not satisfied that the quality of care and experience of the residents were monitored and developed on an ongoing basis”.
Numerous attempts to contact the owner of the home Theresa O’Toole yesterday proved unsuccessful.