Friday 18 January 2019

Health watchdog 'law on their own'

Harrowing allegations of elder abuse at a nursing home were sparked by a personal vendetta, the owners have claimed.

Sarah Lipsett, a director of Rostrevor private home for the elderly in Rathgar, south Dublin, said none of the residents complained, none wanted to move and all their families had written saying how happy they were.

She also called for an oversight committee to keep a tight rein on the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) watchdog.

"They are pretty much a law on to their own," she said.

Ms Lipsett claimed the authority moved to suspend Rostrevor's nursing home licence after a cook and two care assistants made "unfounded allegations" in revenge on a male care assistant who reported staff for fraud.

She said there had been an issue over timesheets and wages while her mother, Therese Lipsett - named in court papers as the owner of Rostrevor - was on sick leave being treated for cancer.

Therese Lipsett is understood to have asked the staff at the centre of the fraud claims to continue working and repay the money. No-one has been prosecuted.

The accused care assistant from Mauritius, who has been working in Rostrevor for four years, was named in court papers as Mr P and accused of a series of damning abuse allegations, physical and verbal. He has been suspended.

Ms Lipsett refuted the allegations.

"They are absolutely unfounded," she said.

"None of the residents have been consulted, none of them wish to move and all of their families are very happy.

"They have all been in contact, they have all been contacted. They are all very upset.

"They all stated in writing how happy they are and they wish to remain and that it's very inconsiderate of Hiqa to not even, despite all the policies they have in place to protect the elderly, to not even question the residents or even consider their wishes."

Ms Lipsett suggested heavy-handed tactics by Hiqa in handling such serious accusations.

"They are a group of people appointed by (former health minister) Mary Harney. A lot of people have suggested someone should be overseeing Hiqa, their policies, the way they inspect.

"Hiqa is a good thing but I don't think what they have done is in the interests of the residents."

Rostrevor is registered in the name of Therese Lipsett and Kitelm Ltd whose director's are Sarah Lipsett and her sister Avila. They failed to secure an appeal over a 28 day suspension of their nursing home licence.

The Health Service Executive is running Rostrevor pending a full hearing in the courts on whether the Lipsetts can continue in control of the home.

Ms Lipsett, a trained solicitor, accepted failings in the way the home was run in the past but pointed to glowing Hiqa inspection reports in recent months.

Ms Lipsett's mother Therese was struck off the nursing register, confirmed by the High Court in December last year, following an incident dating back to 2005. She failed to report an incident where a male care assistant at the home was lying in bed with a resident.

Ms Lipsett, and her daughter Sarah, insisted the resident has always maintained that nothing happened.

Rostrevor recorded one resident suffered a fracture in the last two years. Hiqa said there had been an unusually high number of falls and during inspections a sample of eight residents were found to have had "an alarming history of falls, injuries and incidents". Seven of these reported 24 falls in the last year-and-a-half, while half the group had suffered nine other injuries.

Ms Lipsett said: "Of course there's going to be falls. They are elderly, fragile people - they've all been recorded. It's not unusually high compared to other nursing homes. We do not believe in restraining residents and tying them in."

Mr P is accused of routinely taking an elderly woman to a bathroom on his own and said he told other staff only he could do this. Screams could be heard from the toilet in some of these incidents, Hiqa said.

In another alleged attack, Mr P is accused of banging an elderly man's head off a door jamb, ordering staff to say he fell and, separately, kicking the same elderly man a number of times while on the ground and refusing to stop despite pleas from other staff.

Ms Lipsett insisted both sets of allegations were unfounded and untrue. She also said they were never reported to a nurse on duty or a nursing manager as is required.

"It's personal. The care assistant has refuted all the allegations and claimed it is a personal vendetta," she said.

"Every relative of every resident has always said that this care assistant is fantastic, he's wonderful. He's been here four years and there's never been one complaint against him."

© Press Association

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