McGuinness wonders why Hiqa won’t investigate care home complaints

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Hiqa is set to be challenged over why it won’t investigate care home complaints, according to the former chairman of the public accounts committee.

John McGuinness said he was writing to the Oireachtas health committee asking them to bring in the Hiqa chiefs to explain their decision.

The TD was responding to a statement on the health watchdog’s website that says it does not investigate individual complaints.

Asked about this by the Irish Examiner, he declared that the legal investigations which he could carry out carried “no executory sanction”.

This led Cork TD Colm Burke to raise the issue during the recent Health Select Committee debate on the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022.

He asked the Minister of State for Disability, Anne Rabbitte, to look into the matter and she promised to do so.

Mr McGuinness told the Irish Examiner“I believe that if we want to learn anything from what has gone wrong in nursing homes, especially during the pandemic, then Hiqa should investigate the cases that come to their attention.

“The reality is that current legislation allows them to investigate.

“I believe that Hiqa has an obligation to go investigate them, but to say that they have no powers is not true. They have powers.

“I think Hiqa should be an organization that seeks the truth for the sake of the care of the citizens of this state.”

He said he was writing to the Health Committee to “ask them to bring in Hiqa and ask them why they will not investigate individual complaints”.

In its 2021 brochure titled “How to provide feedback or make a complaint about residential services for the elderly”, the watchdog states: “Hiqa is unable to investigate individual complaints about a residential service for the elderly. health or welfare under the Health Act 2007″.

The families of those who died in nursing homes who asked Hiqa to investigate said the monitoring staff constantly told them they would not investigate their complaints.

But Section 9 of the Health Act (2007) provides that Hiqa can in fact undertake an investigation into the safety, quality and standards of services provided by a care home if it has “reasonable grounds” to believe that there is “a serious risk” to the welfare of a person receiving these services.

When asked why he was not investigating, Hiqa said, “A statutory investigation by Hiqa carries no enforceable sanction and therefore cannot be guaranteed to improve resident care.”

Hiqa has received a number of complaints from a growing group of families who have lost loved ones among the more than 2,100 nursing home residents who have died.

The complaints, many of which are being investigated by the gardaí, allege residents suffered abuse and neglect in a small number of homes before their deaths.

When TD Colm Burke raised the issue of the Hiqa investigations, his Fine Gael colleague Bernard Durkan, in the same debate, told fellow TDs that “the system is falling apart”.

He said that there were too many “blockages” in the investigations and he asked if the authorities were “too afraid to investigate”?

“Hiqa or any responsible body (should) be able to respond to a situation in a variety of situations, from Kerry to Donegal (where) there are situations that shouldn’t happen,” he said.

“But as situations continue to arise, where people are at risk, where complaints have been made. . . Nothing has changed.”