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External expert review of HSE's safeguarding policy

Updated: Jul 19, 2023


By Laura Hogan - RTE News - 26.06.2023 An external safeguarding expert has been appointed to examine issues relating to the 'Emily' case and wider Health Service Executive safeguarding issues.


It is in response to details of a report into the sexual assault of a resident at a HSE-run nursing home, revealed by RTÉ News this week.


The report by the National Independent Review Panel (NIRP) found that other residents had alleged incidents of sexual assault by the same healthcare worker.


It stated that none of the incidents were followed up in accordance with HSE safeguarding policy.


In June 2020, a healthcare assistant ('Mr Z') who worked at the home was jailed for 11 years for the rape of a female resident who has been given the pseudonym 'Emily' for the purposes of the NIRP report.


HSE Chief Executive Bernard Gloster said he is not yet satisfied that issues at the nursing home at the centre of the 'Emily' case were fully understood, and that 20 cases related to the nursing home have already been sent to gardaí.


Jackie McIlroy, who is an external safeguarding expert from Northern Ireland, will now review relevant reports already carried out into the case, and will report back on whether a further examination of individual records is required within six weeks.


She has also been tasked with conducting a high-level review of HSE safeguarding policy procedures and structures, and will conclude this work in four months' time.


Mr Gloster said it was "critical" to close out any questions in this individual home and that it was of equal importance that the HSE completely overhauls its approach to safeguarding vulnerable adults.


The HSE will continue to engage with a number of families of residents at this home to update them on safeguarding considerations for their loved ones, many of whom are now deceased, he added. Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Mr Gloster, Chief Executive said it is their duty to "correct and improve" the safeguarding system for adults across society.


He said there is "no excusing or explaining the absolute abhorrent experience" that a resident in a HSE nursing home went through.


He said there is no doubt that there are a lot of people who are facing high levels of trauma arising out of this incident.


Mr Gloster said two "significant pieces" of work have been done in the aftermath, including a National Independent Review Panel and a safeguarding report.


He said that "to date there have been consideration of numbers in excess of 10, in excess of 20, and I want to stress not all of these are considerations attributed to the one perpetrator, or person causing concern.


"These are safeguarding concerns right across the spectrum. There are also considerations in excess of 30."


He said there is very good work done in the reports on how to improve things, but "fundamentally" he is not satisfied the basic question is answered, so he has appointed a safeguarding expert who will commence work in six weeks.


He said the single question he has set for her is in respect of this nursing home is on the basis of all the evidence available.


"Is there a basis for looking back further? Either to a specific period of time, a specific number of residents or indeed a full look back since the nursing home opened?"


He said there will be a team engaging with a number of families who were already contacted after this incident and the circumstances of their loved ones had been reported to gardaí.


He said he intends to publish a summary report from the National Independent Review Panel soon as he can deal with court orders.


He said they have excellent safeguarding staff working in the HSE but not all structures are fit for purpose.


'Promises' have not been delivered


Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd described the fact more than 20 cases had been sent to gardaí as an appalling situation. "It's shocking. At least we know now they'll be investigated, but it should never have happened," he said.


Mr O'Dowd welcomed the appointment of Ms McIlroy and the fixed timelines for her work, however he said that more needs to be done and there are "promises" that have not been delivered.


He said this included a home care package to keep people out of nursing homes, a commission on care that he said was "promised in the programme for government and not delivered" and a Covid-19 inquiry. "We need to wake up as a government and do the job we are there to do, to protect older vulnerable people," he said.


Mr O'Dowd said that he welcomed the fact that Ms McIlroy will have the opportunity to make decisions on whether further examinations of other files relating to Emily's nursing home is needed.


"Those files must be looked at," he said, adding that the perpetrator in Emily's case was in place since 2004. "We have to have the full truth and accountability so what happened in this home is known to all of us."


Mr O'Dowd called on the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to "get on with" the job of setting up a national safeguarding authority, which he said has been promised since 2017. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact Dignity4Patients, whose helpline is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm.

 
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