There has been widespread condemnation of allegations of abuse and poor standards of care at a centre for adults with intellectual disabilities in Co Mayo, revealed tonight in an RTÉ Investigations Unit report.
The undercover report broadcast on Prime Time showed some residents at a unit of Áras Attracta care centre in Swinford being force-fed, slapped, kicked, physically restrained and shouted at.
Three separate investigations are under way into the treatment of residents at the centre.
Gardaí, the Health Service Executive and the Health Information and Quality Authority are investigating a list of abuses and poor standards of care at the centre, which were exposed during the undercover investigation.
Some staff members, who are the subject of the allegations, have been suspended until the investigation is concluded.
Speaking on Prime Time, Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch said she found the investigation “really very disturbing”.
She said: “I refuse to believe Áras Attracta is the only place where this is happening. We are looking at what other processes we can put in place.
"We have an investigation going on. We have to wait for the results to see what disciplinary action will be taken."
She said this “is clearly not enough” and “maybe it will take putting an undercover person in place ... people going in unobserved, taking a serious look at what’s goes on".
National Director for Social Care at the HSE Pat Healy said he was “disturbed” by tonight’s report and that he found the content “quite upsetting”.
He added the “behaviours and practices are unacceptable. That type of behaviour has no place in the health service.”
Mr Healy accepted the HSE is responsible for the abuses that took place at Áras Attracta: “We have failed in unit three, that’s for sure. It’s important to acknowledge that.”
Asked what the HSE’s response to the abuses in the care home would be he said the purpose of his role was “to provide leadership and consistency of service - I’m about addressing this.
"We have put in new management, change is being made. There’s a cultural issue here we have to get to the bottom of."
Mr Healy added he has set up an independent investigation, separate from the HSE, which will address the issues raised by the investigation.
Also speaking on Prime Time, Inclusion Ireland CEO Paddy Connolly said the RTÉ Investigations Unit report shows there "is a culture of pressure, violence and control".
He said he had a huge amount of concern for the safety of residents in such care homes.
Mr Connolly added: "There is a clear line of sight between the decisions of this Government and the abuses in Áras Attracta.
"The Government inspections haven’t inspired confidence. There has to be an independent investigation."
The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) stated it is "gravely concerned and shocked" by the footage shown in the RTÉ Investigations Unit programme.
However, DFI CEO John Dolan welcomed "the swift response of the HSE in the establishment of a team to carry out a full investigation into the incidents that were highlighted this evening, and hope that it comes to a timely and appropriate conclusion."
Former employee raised concerns
Earlier, a former employee of Áras Attracta said he raised concerns four years ago about the impact of budget cuts on residents and staff at the centre.
Noel Giblin, National Secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association, worked at the centre up to a few years ago.
He said cutbacks had forced the closure of some units, making it very difficult for residents and staff.
Chairperson of the Special Needs Parents Association Lorraine Dempsey described the way in which residents were treated at unit three as a scandal.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described the allegations of abuse at the centre as "intolerable and unacceptable".
"The idea that men and women with intellectual disabilities be slapped or sat on is utterly intolerable and unacceptable," he said.
Mr Kenny was speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil this evening.
He said "as a Government and as a people, every person using disability services should expect to receive support of highest standard".