Pauline Scott & Paul Healy
Cllr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan has damaged the morale of staff at a Community Nursing Home in Castlerea – and caused unnecessary alarm amongst relatives of elderly people staying there.
That’s the claim made by the HSE this week as the health agency reacted angrily to Cllr. Flanagan’s claims of mismanagement on the HSE’s part in respect of Áras Mháthair Phóil in Castlerea.
Cllr. Flanagan says conditions at Áras Mháthair Phóil are not satisfactory –and he accuses HSE chiefs of ‘sitting on their posteriors…collecting phenomenal expenses’ while ignoring issues at the nursing home.
Cllr. Flanagan says that at a time when there are staff shortages at Áras Mháthair Phóil, the HSE pressed ahead with spending funds on a new kitchen there; he claims some patients do not have access to a regular shower and that others are left in bed during the day as there isn’t enough staff to get them up and dressed – and he alleges that patient hygiene standards at the home are unacceptable. Cllr. Flanagan stressed that the existing staff are doing their very best.
The HSE responded: “We very much regret the nature and tone of the criticism of this community nursing unit expressed by Cllr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan in terms calculated to cause unnecessary alarm among relatives and to damage the morale of hard-working staff at the unit.”
Accepting that there are some staff vacancies at Áras Mháthair Phóil at present, the HSE says they are not allowed to replace staff members on maternity leave and sick leave due to the “present difficult economic and budgetary circumstances in the public sector.”
On the claim that some patients remain in bed during the day due to staff shortages, the HSE says that the Director of Nursing at Áras Mháthair Phóil advises that residents are left in bed only at their own request or due to illness.
On claims that hygiene standards at the home are unacceptable, the HSE says that the hygiene needs of all residents are met on a daily basis, adding “but anyone with experience of dealing with the elderly will understand that in a small number of cases this may not necessarily involve a shower or bath depending on personal or medical circumstances.”
Cllr. Flanagan said the HSE “choose to ignore the fact that people in their golden years are being wronged.”
The HSE responded: “The staff at Áras Mháhair Phóil are extremely upset and take grave exception to the concept of care of the elderly that is portrayed by Cllr. Flanagan’s allegations. Each individual receives a good standard of care, which is always delivered in a caring and compassionate way.”
‘Elderly being wronged’
The “appallingly low level of staff” expected to cater for the residents of Áras Mathair Pól in Castlerea was slammed this week by local councillor, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.
“If a society is to be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable then we live in one that is a shambles. We are now apparently so poor that we cannot cater for the most basic needs of our elderly. I say this as a result of a letter that I have received from a constituent of mine in which they outline the appallingly low level of staff that is now expected to cater for the needs of the residents at Áras Mathair Pól in Castlerea.
“The HSE will tell you that it is down to a lack of resources. However the unnecessary building of a new kitchen at the facility at the cost of a half a million euro proves that it is not a lack of money which is causing the shortages, but in fact bad management. After all, which is more important, having a fancy kitchen or having a nurse to call on you in the middle of the night?
“As things stand there is only one nurse and one carer expected to cover night duty with approximately 33 elderly patients in their care. This is totally inadequate and cannot be meeting any sort of health and safety standards. If there was a fire at the home there is absolutely no way that these frail people could be evacuated in time. At the same time the HSE gives funding priority to building a new kitchen.
“Due to staff shortages the standard of care has dropped to the point that some patients are left in bed during the day as there isn’t enough staff to get them up and dressed. Also many patients do not have access to a regular shower for the same reason. There are many concerns about the level of hygiene at the nursing home. Staff have to stretch themselves so much to cater for the patients that they are left with no time to spend on the auxiliary side of their job. When dealing with elderly patients, hygiene is paramount. As things stand patient hygiene standards at the home are unacceptable. At the same time the HSE gives funding priority to re-landscaping part of the gardens.
“All this at a time when there is an abundance of money for middle management to sit on their posteriors driving around the place collecting phenomenal expenses….
“It is vital to stress that the staff at Áras Mathair Pól do their best to give a decent level of care at the home. However, at the current skeletal levels of staff it is not possible. In the recent past, at least three members of staff have left with no replacements employed to cover the 110 nursing hours which have been lost per week.”
Cllr. Flanagan said that the HSE know what is going on at Áras Mathair Pól, “yet they choose to ignore it”.
Cllr. Flanagan said the HSE ignores conditions which he believes could be unsafe and unhealthy for “someone’s mother, someone’s father, someone’s brother.” “They choose to ignore the fact that people in their golden years are being wronged.”
He concluded: “At what stage will the ostrich-like management at the HSE take their damned heads out of the sands of bureaucracy? Shame on ye. Shame on ye. If any of those management are reading this they should remember that they too will be old some day. Would they like to be treated like this?”
HSE defends standards, rebukes Ming
“We very much regret the nature and tone of the criticism of this community nursing unit expressed by Cllr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan in terms calculated to cause unnecessary alarm among relatives and to damage the morale of hard-working staff at the unit.
“Áras Mháthair Phóil is a Community Nursing Unit in Roscommon providing residential and day care services to the older population of Castlerea and its environs. Staffing allocation for Áras Mháthair Phóil originally was for a 40 bedded unit as follows: 33.63 WTEs assigned to the unit, Nursing 10.87, Support 20.11 and Admin 1.85. However bed occupancy has been reduced to 32 beds to improve resident/staff ratio.
“There are some vacancies at Áras Mháthair Phóil at present, which have occurred as a result of nurses retiring, 1.9 nurse WTEs have retired and approval to fill the vacancies has been sought from the AEMU (Area Employment Monitoring Unit). Also one WTE Nurse is on maternity leave and a support person is on sick leave. WTE or whole time equivalent is a term used to describe a full time position as distinct from the number of individuals who may be filling it, eg. two persons on job share may fill one position.
“Under the present difficult economic and budgetary circumstances in the public sector, we are not allowed to replace the staff members on maternity leave and sick leave. However, it will be immediately apparent that the staffing levels at Áras Mháthair Phóil still compare more than favourably with any private sector nursing home.
“The Director of Nursing at Áras Mháthair Phóil advises that residents are left in bed only at their own request or due to illness. When residents remain in bed, their personal and healthcare needs are met as per an individualized care plan, which is updated regularly. Hygiene needs of all residents are met on a daily basis, but anyone with experience of dealing with the elderly will understand that in a small number of cases this may not necessarily involve a shower or bath depending on personal or medical circumstances.
“The staff at Áras Mháhair Phóil are extremely upset and take grave exception to the concept of care of the elderly that is portrayed by Cllr Flanagan’s allegations.
“Each individual receives a good standard of care, which is always delivered in a caring and compassionate way. Each individual is treated with dignity and respect at Áras Mháthair Phóil.
“We realise how important the Day care service is to the Day Care clients and as a result we are maintaining this service for the present. In the past we had a nurse but currently due to staff constraints we are unable to designate a nurse to this service. However, there is a Health Care Assistant allocated to this service and there are three registered nurses on the floor adjacent to the room where day care operates.
“We make no apology for expenditure on the kitchen. The old kitchen at Áras Mháthair Phóil was in breach of food safety legislation and as a result was reprioritised by the National Development Programme for replacement. Again, anyone with experience of caring for the elderly will realise the importance of modern kitchen facilities. As part of planning permission the HSE was required to provide additional car park spaces. The tender price included the cost of providing car park spaces and landscaping the grounds. All our staff are trained in fire drills and emergency procedures.”