Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health, Disabilities and Special Needs Colm Keaveney has said the Government is doing a dis-service by not allow a debate in the Dáil today in light of the revelations of abuse of residents at a County Mayo care home for intellectually disabled adults.

Deputy Keaveney has described the exposé by RTÉ at Áras Attracta in Swinford, Co Mayo as “truly shocking and beyond outrageous.”

“The Dáil should be facilitating a serious debate on these shocking revelations.  They call into question the inspection regime implemented by HIQA and raise serious questions around staff recruitment.

Deputy Keaveney continued, ”What we witnessed last night was appalling, unacceptable and raises many questions about the performance, management and recruitment of staff in our care homes.  It is essential that those responsible for mis-treatment of patients or for the mis-management of units face the appropriate consequences.  But we also need to question the recruitment process for staff who work in such areas.  For instance, do they receive psychological testing to being hired to assess their suitability for this type of work?  If not, this needs to now become a feature of all recruitment into the future.  What was the performance management practice within the unit?  Were regular performance assessments carried out and were these audited?  All of these issues have to be fully addressed.

“While I welcome Tony O’Brien Director General of the HSE’s encouragement of HSE staff to speak out when they witness abuses or failings this rings a little hollow in the face of the many reports I have received from front line staff that they are being intimidated out of speaking out by management.  Earlier this year a supervisor within a unit had his HSE supplied mobile taken off him to check through his phone calls and text messages to see if he had been in contact with public representatives.  Other staff have reported having their emails monitored.  I know of two psychiatrists who have been side-lined within the health service because they spoke out, trying to defend the welfare of their patients.  Mr O’Brien’s comments today are welcome but must be matched by the practice of his managers on the ground.  The intimidation of staff from speaking out must end.

“It is utterly alarming that only 1.9 % of units like Áras Attracta are fully in compliance with HIQA standards.

“The Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister Lynch must come before the Dáil to address all of these issues as a matter of urgency,” concluded Deputy Keaveney.