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Still No Lesson Learned from Peter McKenna's Death?

category national | health / disability issues | news report author Thursday July 13, 2006 12:21author by Kathy Sinnott - Chair, Hope Project Report this post to the editors

I would like to publicly raise my concerns regarding the vulnerability of those citizens who are currently Wards of Court and who cannot speak up for themselves.

I do this in light of the dreadful circumstances of the death of Peter McKenna, a man with Down Syndrome who was sent to Leas Cross nursing home at the direction of the judge in the Ward of Court. The Hynes report which investigated the circumstances of this manís death found that St. Michaelís House withheld vital information from the Court which would have prevented Mr. McKenna being sent to this establishment. Leas Cross nursing home has since been closed down. As a parent of a similarly vulnerable citizen, I still await what action the office of the Ward of Court is taking to prevent a repeat of what happened to Mr. McKenna. There have been numerous other parents who have been in contact with me expressing similar concerns.

I am unaware of any investigation into the actions of St. Michaelís House in this tragic case or of steps taken to prevent a repeat of the events which lead to Mr. McKennaís death. In the absence of any such action being taken, those on the Ward of Court list remain particularly vulnerable.The Wards of Court office are not in a position to do extensive investigation and rely heavily on the truth of what they are told. If a voluntary agency such as St. Michaelís House is allowed to treat the Ward of Court process with such disdain, there is no reason to believe any other voluntary agency would not follow suit. I am urging the office of the Ward of Court to close the loophole whereby a voluntary agency is allowed to misrepresent or manipulate the truth or even give misleading information to a Ward of Court hearing and is subsequently not held to account for their actions.

author by M Cottonpublication date Thu Jul 13, 2006 12:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The story of Peter McKenna's death is not over. Even now there is an ex St Michael's House employee battling in the employment tribunal to bring them to justice over their victimisation of employees following McKenna's death. The official strategy seems to be to keep adjourning the case so that the full facts never get heard or if they do, so much time will have elpased since the event itself that nobody will care about it anymore.

Fact: the CEO of St Micahel's House is a failed business-man friend of Bertie Ahern's. SMH had block booked beds at Leas Cross, the intention being it seems to farm out mentally ill patients nearing the end of their life to a cheaper facility. In other words it was a crude strategy for dealing with a numbers problem. The needs of individuals were utterly disgregarded so that Peter, who lived most of his adult life at SMH was callously taken from everything he knew and loved and dumped in a nursing home where he died within a week.

Fact: In the year following Peter's death and despite the outrageous circumstances of his death which were still under investigation, Ahern saw fit to endorse SMH by presiding over a glitzy dinner during which he made a speech praising SMH to the skies.

Inclusion Ireland, the national body representing people with intellectual disability in Ireland and many of its member organisations have endlessly raised the issue of standards in residential facilities for people like Peter McKenna. As things stand there are no standards of care which patients and their families can depend on in this country. The government is playing a disgusting game of cat and mouse on the issue because it knows that once a standard is down in black and white, money will have to be made available to implement it. Standards imply inspections and accoutnability. But you see the nursing home 'sector' in Ireland is being converted into a nice little profit-making enterprise for business people. As in every other walk of life in Ireland, from the environment to schools to hospitals, nobody can be held accountable for anything because of the potential impact on the bottom line. And making as much money as possible for a handful of sickeningly rich people is the religion and politics that we are now all devoted to, whether we like it or not.

All public services are being deliberately run down and underfunded to encourage as many people as possible to seek alternatives in the private sector. People with profound intellectual disability are something of a nuiscance in that scheme because they are a collective responsibility and are impervious to the ecnomic policies of disgusting people like Mary Harney and her lords and masters over at IBEC.

The Peter McKenna story is not over.

author by Mediator - Nonepublication date Fri Sep 01, 2006 22:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have been reading the comments by Kathy Sinnot MEP with regard to the death of Peter McKenna who was a Ward of Court at Leas Cross Nursing Home.

As a parent of a 38 year old man who is brain injured, and who is a Ward of Court, I would like to offer the following scenario for your consideration.

When families seek services for their family member who has a disability, they are confronted with obstacles of all kinds, day in, day out, going on year after year. They are also faced with the realisation that the services that they require are just not there. They also find themselves being bullied, both by the HSE and the Office of Wards of Court, into accepting what they know is not an appropriate service.

When I mentioned the death of Peter McKenna to a Court Officer, he was clearly offended, and asked where did the report criticise the Office of Wards of Court?

By their inability and lack of effor to protect Mr McKenna, they failed in their duty and responsibility to him.

I would certainly hate when the day comes when we can no longer be our son's advocates and when he is almost certainly left to the mercy of the HSE and others who are supposed to act in his best interests.

The Office of Wards of Court, like the HSE, want easy and quck solutions and do not and probably cannot, spend the time required to ensure that Wards are protected from service providers who do not have their best interests at heart. The HSE want to wash their hands off these individuals, and hand their care over to VO in the disability sector. Once this happens, no one seems to be accountable and just recently our son had to stay in Beaumont Hospital for over a week. He was promised his usual quota of support hours so that with his family helping, he would have support throughout the day (hospitals are not equipped nor staffed to provide this level of care for people with disabilities who need to be hospitalised). The Agency in question took the travel time from his designated hours, thus reducing it by half, without any discussion. This same organisation have had FAS staff in, untrained staff in, non-Irish staff with communication problems. FAS Staff giving a double dose of medication, etc. etc.They put on clean bedlinen over a soiled bed, having failed to use protective covers, and did this on more than one occasion, until I discovered it. No one monitors them and they can do as they please. If they would do this in a man's home, what would they do if he was in an institution?

Something needs to be done before we have another Peter McKenna, and it does not have to be Leas Cross - it can happen anywhere.

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