Four of the eight residential units at a St John of God facility in Co Louth have been deemed not fit for purpose by the Health Information & Quality Authority.

HIQA has issued notices of proposal to close the four units at the St John of God campus in Drumcar, RTÉ Investigates has learned. The organisation has 28 days to appeal.

HIQA said in a statement that because of "ongoing serious concerns for the safety and care of residents" ... it "initiated an enforcement process ... to safeguard the residents".

Among the major concerns raised is that some residents are being removed from a residential unit for up to 12 hours a day to protect them from assault by another resident.

This issue was highlighted by HIQA Inspectors as long ago as May 2016 when they found that "because of behavioural issues" one of the residents presented with "two [other] residents could only access their home when this resident was in bed".

The inspectors wrote that this was "not in any way meeting the assessed needs of any of the three residents".

In a subsequent inspection nine months later, HIQA found the practice continues.

A spokesperson for the SJoG said that the priority was the safety of the residents but that the practice of moving residents from their homes over a prolonged period was unacceptable.

The Drumcar facility was at the centre of controversy last year after it was revealed residents were charged for medical services and equipment that St John of God should have paid for.

According to a HIQA report: "residents were being charged substantial sums of money for furniture, medical aids and medical appointments".

One resident "assessed as needing a body brace was charged €552 for this specialist medical appliance". 

Another was charged €2,499 for a specialised armchair and a dexa bone density scan.

At the time St John of God said it had ceased the practice and started repaying money into the residents’ accounts.

However, a HIQA report found that the practice continued despite earlier warnings and RTÉ Investigates understands that HIQA has now reported the matter to gardaí.

The latest report found that a resident at Rivergrove House, which is part of the Drumcar service but off the main campus, had money withdrawn from their bank account to pay for a medical device that SJoG should have supplied.

The spoksperson for SJoG said that "it can't be explained away, it can't be excused away, it did happen and it was wrong".

Paddy Connolly, the CEO of Inclusion Ireland said "it is totally unacceptable that a service is using residents' money to shore up where they have shortcomings in their own funding".

Drumcar has been a focus for HIQA inspections in recent years - the agency has carried out 42 inspections there since 2014.

In 2015, one unit, comprising of two chalets, was closed following a HIQA inspection

Frontline staff are generally praised in inspection reports, but not the physical facilities at Drumcar.

There is wide agreement that institutions like Drumcar are not suitable homes for those with intellectual disabilities.

 In June 2011 a major HSE report envisaged all residents being moved from institutional settings across Ireland mainly into community houses by 2018. Progress has been very slow.

In the meantime there is little evidence of significant investment in the Drumcar campus and there are complaints about cutbacks to some St John of God services in the Northeast.

Concerns have been raised about more than service gaps.

There was an angry reaction when the Daily Mail reported last year that SJoG CEO John Pepper in 2013 received on top of his salary of €182,000 a payment of €649,000 to buy out a pension obligation.

The payment is being investigated, as a possible breach of public pay rules by the HSE, which provided €131m to St John of God Community Services in 2015.

The HSE says that audit is near completion.