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The Death of Peter McKenna At Leas Cross Nursing Home: Open Letter To The HSE
health / disability issues |
Monday December 05, 2005 11:55 by Kathy Sinnott
I wish to express my serious concerns regarding the recent publication by the H.S.E. of the Hynes report on the death of Peter McKenna and related matters. Peter McKenna was 60 years old and had Down syndrome. He lived in St Michael's House until he was moved against the family's wishes to Leas Cross Nursing Home where he died.
It is most regrettable that St. Michael’s House, an organisation which enjoys a reputation for high standards of care, continues to deny its culpability in the manner of this man’s passing. It is further regrettable that it is doing so by means of a highly paid PR company which is being funded by public monies. Such funds should be utilised solely for the development of much needed services for people with learning disability. These orchestrated and strenuous denials further add to the pain the family is already living with following their brother’s unnecessarily painful and untimely death at Lea’s Cross.
It is clear from the Hynes report that St. Michael’s House senior administrators failed to report the complaints they had received about Lea’s Cross Nursing Home when forcing the family to accept Mr. McKenna’s placement there by means of the High Court. At no time did these administrators reflect to the judge the information they had received about the inadequate standards of care at Lea’s Cross from St. Michael’s House staff and families of clients who had been placed there prior to Peter being sent to this nursing home. The judge ruled against the wishes of the family on the basis of the information he was presented with in the court. The use of the Ward of Court status by senior administrators from St. Michael’s House to force their will on Peter McKenna’s family is an abuse of this process, an issue which I would urge the High Court to re-examine in light of what happened to Mr. McKenna. As a parent of a person with a learning disability, I would caution anyone in similar circumstances to consider the facts of the Peter McKenna case before allowing their child to become a Ward of Court. This family was brow-beaten and bullied into accepting a placement against their wishes by an organisation which withheld significant information from the High Court.
Of equal concern to me are the reports I am receiving of the intimidation and bullying of St. Michael’s House clinical and frontline staff members who complained about the use of this nursing home both prior to Mr. McKenna’s placement there and following his death. I understand one senior clinical staff member is taking a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal having complained to the Minister of Health and Children about Mr. McKenna’s treatment and a "culture of bullying" in the organisation. He was subsequently subjected to a campaign of vilification by these same senior administrators who oversaw Mr. McKenna’s care. These acts of bullying and intimidation are not the actions of agents of the state about whom the HSE can feel proud. If we have learned anything from the recent Ferns report it is that we can no longer unquestioningly entrust the care of our vulnerable citizens to institutions which view themselves as beyond scrutiny and reproach.
I am calling on the HSE to take the necessary action to address the underlying issues not dealt with adequately in the Hynes report. The report does not go far enough in exposing the culture that brought about the circumstances of Mr. McKenna’s death. The HSE should implement measures that will ensure that this dreadful plight does not befall any other families when they are at their most vulnerable. In addition, I believe that the time has come for a closer examination of how St. Michael’s House conducts its business and utilises the huge sums of public money which it receives from the State. There is dismay among my colleagues at the inequitable funding arrangements enjoyed by voluntary agencies, which receive most of their funding from public monies with very little accountability (an issue which was highlighted on a recent Primetime programme). As an MEP, I will be following this case closely from a European perspective.
Kathy Sinnott MEP
European Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
European Parliamentary Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
European Parliamentary Intergroup on Disability, Vice President
European Parliamentary Intergroup on Family and Child Protection, Vice President
European Parliamentary Intergroup on Bioethics, Vice President