Northern Ireland news

Father of Muckamore patient 'stunned' by new revelations

Glynn Brown at the entrance to Muckamore Abbey Hospital. Picture by Mal McCann

THE father of a vulnerable patient being treated in a hospital at the centre of an abuse probe has said he was shocked to learn of alarming new revelations about the facility.

The Irish News revealed yesterday that fresh inspections at Muckamore Abbey Hospital over the past three months uncovered concerns about the seclusion of patients and "possible financial abuse".

Confidential minutes from the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) stated that the hospital's reliance on agency workers had the potential to "impact on patient safety and the safety of staff themselves".

It also raised concerns that patients were being put in seclusion in rooms which did not meet the correct requirements.

And it highlighted "potential financial abuse" of a patient's assets.

The issues were brought to light during two unannounced inspections by the RQIA in February and last month.

Glynn Brown, whose 22-year-old son is cared for part-time at Muckamore, said he was appalled by the revelations.

He questioned why the RQIA had not made the findings of its inspection reports public.

"This is a publicly-funded body. They need to reassure the public and provide information," he said.

Specialist teams of PSNI detectives are probing 300 incidents of alleged abuse of vulnerable patients at the hospital.

A total of 20 nurses have been suspended.

Mr Brown said the fresh revelations had made him "less confident" that improvements were being made.

He said police are now investigating a total of 48 incidents involving his vulnerable 22-year-old son. The incidents happened within the space of just a few months.

"Two years later people are still being secretive and hiding their concerns, especially a regulatory body. What confidence does that give?" he said.

"This report needs to be published so the general public know what's going on. We're only finding out when The Irish News writes a story."

The RQIA, which is the north's health watchdog found that staff at the hospital were so fearful, they were allowing themselves to be hit by patients because they did not want to use appropriate restraint techniques.

Mr Brown said: "I think the nurses up there are doing a good job in trying circumstances."

"The nurses need to be reassured," he said.

"Again it's the lack of leadership which is causing this crisis."

He said he was alarmed to learn that the Belfast health trust did not recruit seven extra nurses to improve safety, even though it had assured the RQIA that the nurses would take up their posts in March.

Instead, four agency staff were employed.

Mr Brown said there was clearly a "staffing crisis there with so many suspended and others on the sick".

He added: "Some things are slowly changing but we're two years down the road - how long does it take to turn the ship around?"

"I was expecting to see a lot of massive improvements."

Mr Brown said the revelations again showed there was a need for a public inquiry into the hospital.

"What has to come out? What awful thing is coming round the corner we still don't know about?" he said.

Aidan Hanna from patient advocacy group NI Patient Voice said the RQIA should have made a public statement about the situation at Muckamore.

"Families and patients are having to find this out through the media," he said.

"The RQIA should have been keeping the public up-to-date."

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