The Health Service Executive is to give written agreements to relatives of elderly residents at St Vincent's Care Centre in Athlone to confirm they will be allowed to return to the centre after urgent electrical repairs are carried out.

The move follows a stand-off between relatives of up to 35 people and the HSE at the centre when efforts were made to transfer residents by ambulance. 

Plans were announced late last night to transfer the residents to locations in Longford and Offaly because of fears over electrical faults.

Earlier today, relatives told the HSE that they would not consent to them being moved from the centre. 

It is understood the facility will close for five months to facilitate the required improvements.

In a statement, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Helen McEntee confirmed that for "health and safety reasons it has become necessary to transfer residents at St Vincent's Care Centre in Athlone to alternative accommodation on a phased basis".  

The statement added: "Communication with residents and staff began yesterday evening and will continue through the process ... St Vincent's Care Centre will re-open as soon as possible once the necessary refurbishment works are completed."   

The announcement of the works on the facility coincides with a HIQA report published today criticising the HSE's failure to tackle overcrowding and the compromising of residents' privacy at the centre.

In the report detailing an inspection carried out last March, the watchdog says inspectors could clearly see residents in their bedrooms by looking through glass panels in their doors covered by net curtains.

The inspection was unannounced and found that a HSE promise to refurbish three single bedrooms by end of last October had not been completed.

The undertaking followed an earlier inspection and was designed to reduce the number of residents in three multiple-occupancy bedrooms.

Ambulances wait outside St Vincent's Care Centre in Athlone

St Vincent's Care Centre

HIQA said that since the previous inspection, frosted glass partitions in some multi-occupancy bedrooms had been covered with an opaque plastic contact material.

However, the inspector observed that while this obscured the view, it had no effect on management of noise or smells.

The report said the multi-occupancy bedrooms and the limited communal space provided for residents continued to significantly impact on the privacy, dignity and quality of life of the 37 residents.

It also said that despite some improvement works, some parts of the premises occupied by residents were in disrepair.

In response to the report's completion last March, the HSE undertook to implement an action plan to address the identified non-compliances with statutory regulations.

The report said that only 12 of the 22 actions promised in November 2014 had been completed 17 months later in March 2016.

Today's report said that residents had satisfactory access to healthcare, medical and allied health professionals and that their care needs were generally met but improvements were required in relation to documenting end-of-life care needs and preferences.

The report also calls for a review to ensure staff skill sets are adequate to ensure continuity of care for residents.