Northern Ireland news

Muckamore: Families speak of trauma caused to patients

A parent of a Muckamore patient said she has been severely affected by the abuse scandal. Picture by Mal McCann
Seanín Graham

HEARTBREAKING testimonies of families with loved ones at Muckamore Abbey Hospital reveal the guilt, anger and disbelief they feel following the revelations of abuse - with one parent comparing her son's cries to a "terrible grief he's reliving".

Another distressed family said they wonder if their non-verbal relative had "tried to tell" them about possible physical abuse by "rubbing their arm or leg during visits".

When the patient's relatives approached staff about their suspicions, it was dismissed by responses such as "I don't think so, I wasn't on duty".

Parents also spoke of the long-term impact of abuse on relatives with learning disabilities, many of whom had serious mental health problems and were nursed in a psychiatric intensive care unit.

The "lack of trust" of hospital staff is reiterated - as well as support of some "good staff".

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One relative told the independent review team of the changed person their child had become.

"Now he has 'sad moments' when he bursts into tears and we don't know what starts them - it sounds like a terrible grief he's re-living... He doesn't let anyone come close to him.

"He has a sad, sad, loud cry. It's pitiful - as though someone has just died... X's life is non-existent. Being here was detrimental to X."

Another spoke of how their son's favourite past-times such as singing and swimming are no more.

"He's very different after his 14 months at Muckamore. He used to get pleasure out of videos... he hasn't been singing for a while - he used to hum in tune. He's not in a happier place.

"His sad moments are prolific since he was here. He used to enjoy the swimming pool - he can float, and he went swimming twice a week... he used to like horse riding for the disabled... these are all memories."

The review team interviewed 27 families of patients placed in the ICU and another ward between last March and January this year.

The report described relatives as feeling "disgusted, disbelieving, disappointed and angry - as well as guilty that they had imagined that their (loved ones) would be safe at the hospital".

An incident in which a patient suffered a broken limb and then required surgery after being restrained by staff was flagged up by investigators as one that was particularly worrying - in that staff were actually "commended" for their work instead of being challenged.

"The way in which this mini-crisis was tackled and recorded by the hospital conveys something of the corporate culture that governs communications," the probe notes.

Timeline: How The Irish News broke the story of the scale of abuse

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