The Health Service Executive has described as "premature" the call for a clean sweep of its management of residential centres for intellectually disabled people throughout the west of Ireland.

Responding to the Psychiatric Nurses' Association's demand, the HSE said it had already announced the initiation of a full assurance review in all Áras Attracta's units.

It follows an RTÉ investigations Unit report, which showed residents at Áras Attracta in Swinford in Mayo being force-fed, slapped, kicked, physically restrained and shouted at.

A HSE spokesperson said it had also announced the establishment of a system-wide, "six-step programme" of measures to ensure the quality and safety and services across the Republic's 908 residential centres for people with disabilities.

The spokesperson said that until what he termed "these important steps" have been completed, any such call by the PNA’s is considered "premature".

The PNA has revealed that the only management change following last February's damning HIQA report on Áras Attracta involved the substitution of the centre's long-serving manager by an acting manager.

Des Kavanagh, the Association's General Secretary, said this was not enough to reassure the public and called instead for a clean sweep of the HSE's entire management of residential services like Áras Attracta and the appointment of a special team with a brief to reform.

Meanwhile, the HSE has ruled out secret filming in care homes and said it would be appropriate instead to place undercover personnel in facilities to monitor procedures.

Director General, Tony O'Brien, said he is devastated and appalled at last night's report and said he would leave no stone unturned to ensure there is no hiding place for abusers at its facilities.

A spokesperson for the HSE this afternoon confirmed that an additional two staff are no longer on duty at Áras Attracta pending the outcome of the investigations into the standards of care provided at the facility.

It was earlier reported that nine staff have been suspended on full pay pending the investigation.

The head of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Emily Logan has said the undercover investigation at the home raises questions, not only about the treatment of individual residents, but also about the possible systemic nature of such treatment.

In a statement, Ms Logan says she has requested a meeting with the Minister of State for Primary and Social Care, Kathleen Lynch to discuss the observance of the human rights standards of people with intellectual disabilities in the State's care.

Noting that today is International Human Rights Day, Ms Logan said the very essence of human rights is the protection of the human dignity of every person, in particular the most vulnerable people in society.

RTÉ Investigations Unit: Inside Bungalow 3


 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the revelations were "frightening, sickening and infuriating".

However he rejected calls from opposition leaders for an independent investigation of the scandal.

The Ombudsman has said his office can examine complaints about the Health Service Executive and all HSE-run centre, including nursing homes.

Peter Tyndall had asked the Government to empower his office to investigate complaints against private nursing homes.

Raising last night's exposé by the RTÉ Investigations Unit during Leaders' Questions, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the three residents featured had been subjected to torture and to physical and mental abuse.

He said that staff in their bungalow had only ten hours training and this could be seen on camera.

He called for an independent inquiry into what happened and into the culture and practices there.

Mr Kenny said last what last night’s programme showed was not an example of care but of control over vulnerable, voiceless people, which he found sickening.

He said following a HIQA examination during the summer there are a number of investigations ongoing, that all of the RTÉ footage had been handed to the gardaí and he did not want to prejudice any potential outcome.

He explained that the implementation of a 2011 report recommending the phasing out large care settings like Áras Attracta has not happened because of the economic situation.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams echoed calls for an independent inquiry and said if the Taoiseach did not know what review mechanisms are in place, he should say so.

Meanwhile, a sister of one of the residents in the home has said she is shocked beyond words by the footage captured by the RTÉ Investigations Unit.

Speaking on Today with Seán O’Rourke, Sheila Ryan described the treatment of her sister Mary Garvin, 65, in Áras Attracta as torture.

"Torture is an evil in society and has to be rooted out," she said.

Ms Ryan said she was horrified to see some people being kicked, force-fed and a manager sitting on a woman at the residential home.

The former Department of Justice official said she took no comfort from the investigations which had now been ordered.

"These are closed-door inquiries. We need a public inquiry into this. I am calling on the Taoiseach and Minister for Health to instigate a public inquiry. Do not wait for somebody to die.

"We as a nation have to do something about this,” she said.

The Prime Time programme featured undercover footage of substandard care of people with intellectual disabilities.

Responding to the investigation, the HSE said it accepted responsibility for the abuses which took place, and an independent investigation had been established to deal with the issues raised.

The HSE has set up a helpline for concerned family and members of the public.

It can be contacted at 1850 241 850 from 8am to 8pm from Monday to Saturday.

Minister for Primary and Social Care Kathleen Lynch said in a statement this morning: "I am shocked by the revelations of extremely poor and unacceptable standards of care in Áras Attracta.

"Every person who uses disability services is entitled to expect and receive supports of the highest standard and to live in an atmosphere of safety and care.

"This is particularly important for vulnerable people in residential care whose families have entrusted them to the care of professional staff," said the minister.

She welcomed the immediate response of the HSE to alert gardaí and the Health Information and Quality Authority and, for the protection of both residents and staff themselves, to put a number of workers 'off-duty' while the allegations were being investigated.

“I have been assured that the HSE's priority is to protect the very valuable services that people residing in Áras Attracta receive as a critical support to them and their families.

"I am aware that the HSE has contacted families of residents in Áras Attracta offering to meet with them.

"I would encourage families and concerned members of the public to contact the HSE's information line at 1850 241 850," she said.