An investigation into the standard of care at a public nursing home in Mullingar has found that the most basic needs of an elderly patient were not catered for, including being adequately fed and hydrated.
The incriminating report was published by the Ombudsman this week in relation to the treatment of a female patient, who was at St Mary’s Care Centre, Mullingar for one week’s respite in 2006.
The investigation found that the standard of treatment and care in the HSE-run nursing home during this period were “unacceptable”, so much so that the woman’s daughter took her back home after three days when she became alarmed at her condition.
The week’s respite for the 88-year-old woman, who had been physically and mentally incapacitated as a result of a stroke, had been arranged “with a degree of apprehension” by her daughter.
However, the daughter, herself a trained nurse, was extremely dissatisfied with the care her mother received; in fact, she had taken her mother home from the nursing home after only three days when she saw what she felt was a rapid deterioration in her mother's condition.
The complainant was also unhappy with the manner in which her initial complaint to the HSE was handled, and felt that the failure of the HSE to deal properly with her complaint added to her sense of grievance and compounded the shortcomings in the level of care provided.
The Ombudsman's investigation found that the complaint was well founded. "She placed her trust in the system that her mother would be cared for to the same standard that she was cared for at home, even though her mother had very complex needs. Very regrettably, the care received was far from what she could reasonably have expected. My investigation showed that the nursing home failed to ensure that even the patient's most basic needs were catered for, including being adequately fed and hydrated,” reported the Ombudsman.
“The investigation report details failures to provide urgent input from relevant members of the home's multi-disciplinary team. It also highlights the failure to meet the patient's need for adequate food, fluids, and appropriate care of vulnerable areas of skin. When her daughter took her home after three days, the patient was found to have pressure sores and blisters which had not been there on admission to the home.”
The report highlights the failure of nursing home staff to contact the daughter to say that her mother's condition had deteriorated following admission to the home, and also draws attention to failures on the part of the HSE in its handling of the complaint made by the daughter.
Overall, the Ombudsman’s report found there were valuable lessons to be learned from the investigation in relation to delivering patient care to older and more vulnerable people.
"I hope that the HSE, and all those in the public health system engaged in providing care for older people, will be open to learning these lessons so that the experience of my complainant and her mother, in this case, will not be repeated."
The HSE has accepted all the recommendations of the report and has developed a comprehensive action plan to implement them. Many of the recommendations have been addressed already, while some others are currently being progressed.