Ombudsman Peter Tyndall is urging people to contact his office if they have complaints about a HSE-run centre.
Mr Tyndall said today his office can examine such complaints about the HSE and all HSE-run centres, including nursing homes.
The Ombudsman was speaking after shocking scenes were shown in an RTÉ documentary last night when an undercover researcher went behind closed doors in a unit called Bungalow 3 at Áras Attracta, a residential care centre for adults with intellectual disabilities in Swinford.
The resulting Prime Time footage presented harrowing evidience of residents of Áras Attracta being both emotionally and physically abused.
“I was shocked at the deeply disturbing scenes shown on RTÉ’s documentary on Áras Attracta,” said Mr Tyndall.
“Anyone who has a complaint about a HSE-run centre, such as Áras Attracta, or a HSE nursing home, can contact my office for an independent examination of their complaint.”
Meanwhile, The Carers Association said it has been inundated with distressed calls from family carers across the country who are terrified their loved ones may end up being subjected to such treatment should they no longer be in a position to care for them at home.
“A constant worry for family carers is the care provision for their loved ones when they are no longer around and this footage was terrifying,” said Catherine Cox, head of communications for The Carers Association.
“The fear countrywide among our members is that Áras Attracta is not an isolated case,” said Ms Cox.
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the footage from Áras Attracta as 'sickening' and he said the HSE is holding a special meeting next week with the heads of care homes across the country.
Mayo Fine Gael TD John O'Mahony has added his voice to those calling for undercover inspections at care homes and health institutions to weed out any mistreatment happening behind closed doors, which HIQA inspections cannot reasonably be expected to uncover.
“HIQA are undermined in their ability to properly assess care homes and indeed all of the institutions under its remit because staff will always be on their best behaviour during an inspection,” said Deputy O'Mahony.
“We need to remove any barriers to uncovering abuse of clients and patients in our care homes and in the wider health system.
“The previous HIQA investigation of Áras Attracta did not uncover any of the disturbing and upsetting behaviour that we saw on Primetime last night.
“While it is not ideal for undercover investigations to take place, it is necessary in order to deter people from mistreating clients. Undercover investigations will also mitigate against a working culture which enables or turns a blind eye to the mistreatment of clients.”
Complaints can be made to the Ombudsman in writing to: Office of the Ombudsman, 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2; online at ?www.ombudsman.gov.ie; or by email to [email protected].