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Shocking abuse of elderly women in care featured on Prime Time

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
Abuse: The shocking investigation follows the treatment of three women at the centre
Abuse: The shocking investigation follows the treatment of three women at the centre

Shocking abuse of elderly and frail women at a care home will be featured in tonight's RTE Prime Time investigation.

The Prime Time investigation unit went undercover at Mayo's Áras Attracta in Swinford to document the treatment of three elderly ladies at the home. 

What they uncovered at the facility, which is a centre for people with intellectual disability, has been described as "atrocious". 

It follows the treatment of Ivy McGinty, Mary Garvan and Mary Maloney. 

McGinty, a 53-year-old woman with severe intellectual disability, is seen being struck by a worker at the centre and later told by another : "If you died Ivy, I wouldn’t bring you to the toilet."

The care worker then tells others not to bring the woman to the bathroom either. 

In another distressing incident, the 53-year-old is dragged along the ground after being told she couldn't sit in her favourite chair. 

A care worker at the centre on one occasion is heard telling her: "You’re wet. I know you are, but you can stay in it."

Last week, Gardai, the Health Information and Quality Authority and the Health Service Executive confirmed they have been called in to look at a lengthy list of alleged abuse at Áras Attracta.
 
The authorities got involved after the RTÉ Investigations Unit reported concerns for the safety and well-being of residents following the undercover investigation, with the HSE saying they are treating the allegations extremely seriously. 
 
Allegations included force feeding, slapping, kicking, physical restraint and shouting at residents are documented, with staff under investigation suspended until the outcome of the enquiry is known.
 
 
The footage was gathered over three weeks of investigation at the care home. 
 
Some of the distressing footage includes evidence of abuse including slapping, kicking being dragged on the floor and struck with keys.
 
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."
 
"The programme will demonstrate several very serious examples of substandard care in one particular unit, the most serious of which have been described as ‘abusive’ by experts who have seen the footage," a spokesperson for RTE said. 
 
This is not the first scandal to hit the Áras Attracta centre, with the death of resident Francis Loughney in late 2012 also being investigated amid suggestions that he was not given suitable care at the facility.
 
The investigation ‘Inside Bungalow Three’ will be broadcast on RTE One at 9.35pm tonight.