'Treated like lepers' in residential care, but Hiqa can't investigate
Health watchdog Hiqa has said it has "no remit" to investigate 219 complaints that it received last year in relation to disability services, which included allegations of sexual and physical abuse.
The unsolicited complaints concerning residential care centres for people with disabilities included reports of unexplained injuries, physical assaults on residents by staff and financial abuse.
There were also general complaints about staff shortages, neglect, fire safety breaches and poor hygiene.
One complainant observed that residents were being "treated like lepers".
The complaints were made to Hiqa through dedicated channels for reporting concerns. However, the watchdog has said it has no remit to investigate individual complaints.
Instead, all unsolicited information received by the authority is used to inform its monitoring of each residential care centre, a Hiqa spokesperson said.
One complaint received last year alleged that a resident had been "sexually and physically abused and suffered pain during the assaults".
A staff member witnessed the incident, according to the report, but "did not attempt to stop it".
The complainant told Hiqa there had been a dismissal as a result of the incident, but the alleged perpetrator "was not charged with any criminal offence".
The victim no longer attends respite or day care services due to fear of suffering further abuse.
Another complainant reported that a resident had sustained cuts climbing a barbed-wire fence, while there were several allegations of physical assaults and unexplained injuries.
In one case, a resident was hospitalised and treated in an ICU. The complainant tried to establish what had happened, but "staff refused to engage or provide any information" relating to the incident.
There were several concerns reported regarding fire safety.
One complainant told Hiqa that a resident was being accommodated upstairs in a facility without a fire escape, while another reported that a fire door had fallen on top of a resident.
A number of complaints regarding financial safeguarding issues were also submitted to the watchdog.
In one case, a resident was being charged €65 a month to contribute towards the cost of cutting grass, leaving them with no money for personal spending on items such as toiletries.
Another complainant alleged that €5,000 had been taken from a resident's account "without consent", and no invoices or receipts could be provided to explain the use of the money.
Details of the reports were released by Hiqa under the Freedom of Information Act. They were heavily redacted to protect the identity of both complainants and service providers.
"Where Hiqa has concerns relating to the safety of residents and the quality of care that they are receiving, providers are required to take immediate action to address this," said a spokesperson.