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Family of abused women on Prime Time investigation speak of "inhumane" treatment

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
Shocking: The abusive treatment has been described as "horrendous"
Shocking: The abusive treatment has been described as "horrendous"

Family members of the elderly women featured on RTE's Prime Time investigation have spoken of their horror at the "inhumane" treatment their loved ones were subjected to.

The Prime Time investigation unit uncovered evidence of physical and mental abuse at a HSE-run care home in County Mayo. 

Aired last night on RTE, the investigation ‘Inside Bungalow Three’ caused outrage among the families of the frail women featured. 

A sister of 65-year-old Mary Garvan, who was one of the women abused in the home, said she was "shocked beyond words" by the treatment her  elderly sister received.
 
"I couldn't express it. I've never seen anything like it in all my life," Sheila Ryan said.
 
"They seem to think that she's an object, that she doesn't feel anything. That she doesn't understand anything but she does, she does. Every human being does," she told Prime Time. 
 
Her sister, who cannot communicate orally, she described as "a very, very gentle person, always was, very kind gentle person".
 
 
"She's very, very aware of your presence. She knows what's going on all around, even if she can't communicate," she added.
 
She told RTE she felt proud that her sister did not retaliate whatsoever to the abuse she received at the care home, despite being "subjected to that inhumane and degrading treatment".
 
"This can never ever happen again and not just alone for Mary, for all the other people there," Sheila said. 
 
"The least we might expect is that people who are in care are treated with dignity and respect."
 
Speaking today, Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch said: "What we have to accept is the majority of people we watch who were being abused were non-verbal.
 
"We are going to need something extra in terms of this particular group of people.
 
"When HIQA went to inspect, they found bad practises.... They recommended 400 hours of additional training and yet you get this type of situation.
 
 "What we need is to encourage people who are not given to abusing people to step forward."
 
She described the abuse at the care home as "horrendous", and said the HSE is "not beyond" putting surveillance equipment into care homes.
 
"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."
 
A sister of abused 53-year-old Ivy McGinty said she disgusted by the "hurtful treatment" she received at the care home. 
 
"Ivy can't tell us exactly how she feels. It's very hurtful to watch somebody do that to your own flesh and blood - they're innocent people doing no harm to no one," Breege Dolan said. 
 
"Going into a place where they thought they'd be well looked after."
 
One particular incident left an indelible mark on sister Breege. 
 
"She got the gloves and they still would not bring Ivy to the toilet. Now that's very, very hurtful for, you know, a girl that can't speak.
 
"Ivy kept going round and round, but what hurt me more was where Ivy went over she picked up a pair of rubber gloves which I assume nurses do put on when Ivy uses the toilet."
 
Head of nursing at the University of Ulster Professor Owen Barr said: "This is atrocious behaviour. It is institutionalised in its worst form.
 
 
"The real striking part of that is the physical presence of the member of staff, the use of restraint.
 
"At one stage the member of staff puts her hands over ... the individual’s face and that to me is abuse of practice there’s no question about that."
 
Nine staff members have been temporarily suspended from work as the Gardai and the HSE carry out their investigation. 
 
"Absolute responsibility in any setting goes right up to top level management and in this case we’re talking about the HSE",  Lorraine Dempsey of the Special Needs Parents Association said. 
 
"I don’t think the HSE at higher levels can abdicate responsibility and just put full blame on those staff. The buck does not stop with the people on the ground. It goes right up to the top."