Residents of 40 HSE-run care homes living in unsuitable rooms

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More than 40 nursing homes run by the Health Service Executive (HSE) are housing residents in rooms or buildings that do not meet health standards, according to an internal state monitoring report.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has told the government that a large number of public care homes are not meeting new minimum standards for resident rooms.

From the start of this year, nursing homes were required to have no more than four residents sharing a room and provide adequate individual and recreational space for residents.

An internal Hiqa report sent to the Minister of State for the Elderly, Mary Butler, said nearly 70 care homes were subject to ‘restrictive conditions’ as they failed to meet Hiqa standards for bedroom space and the condition of the buildings. Forty-three of these homes were run by the HSE, 23 by private providers and a further three by state-funded voluntary bodies.

Many nursing homes were taking steps to address shortcomings, such as reducing capacity to reduce the number of residents sharing rooms, the report said.

Writing to Ms Butler on January 14, 2022, Carol Grogan, Hiqa’s chief social services inspector, warned that care homes that failed to improve their facilities could face “an escalation in regulatory action”.

The letter, which accompanied the unpublished report, was released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

“Institutional” environments

The regulator’s report says nursing home residents live in “institutional” settings. Residents of shared rooms had very little privacy when dressing or receiving personal care, and often had “no protection from unpleasant noises or smells,” he said.

A plan to replace 33 nursing facilities and renovate 57 facilities announced in 2016 was “significantly” behind schedule, he said.

Hiqa said the delays in building new nursing homes had been “well flagged” by the HSE.

The report noted that the risks of residents living in shared rooms peaked during the Covid-19 pandemic, with residents of nursing homes accounting for a large portion of those who died during virus outbreaks.

Some residents and staff feared that renovations to bring old buildings into line with Hiqa regulations would mean plans to move to a new facility would be put on hold, the report said.

He said where nursing homes were not aligned on standards for rooms and building conditions, “an escalation of regulatory action will be required”, which could include the closure of care homes.

The report criticized the Cherry Orchard Hospital nursing home for housing residents in four “very poor quality” buildings, which “do not provide acceptable rooms, communal facilities or toilets”.

An HSE spokeswoman said many care homes were in buildings ‘over 100 years old’ and a program had been agreed with the Department of Health and Hiqa to bring them up to standard infrastructure required.

Several facilities have seen reductions in bed numbers to allow for better infection control during Covid-19, as well as “the need to improve adherence to Hiqa standards”, she said.

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