“Staff knew that residents with disabilities at the HSE-run facility were sexually abused”
Adults with learning disabilities have been subjected to sexual abuse supported by another resident of a facility run by the HSE with full knowledge of staff and management, according to a report.
The National Independent Review Committee found that a lack of external management oversight and leadership from the Health Service Executive allowed the abuse at the Co Donegal center to worsen over time.
Known as the “Brandon” report, a summary released Thursday found staff felt “helpless” as they routinely reported incidents to the then director of nursing.
Staff wrote the reports in hopes that something would change, but that never did, according to the report.
The review examined a number of serious incidents involving a resident known as “Brandon” at the St Joseph Community Hospital facility in Stranorlar.
It identified 18 residents who were sexually assaulted in incidents that occurred between 2003 and 2016.
However, the report states that the first recorded incident of sexual assault by Brandon dates back to January 28, 1997, when it was discovered by staff to have their hands on the genitals of another resident.
Three other incidents of inappropriate sexual behavior were reported from 1997 to December 2002.
The report states that these earlier documents suggest that managers were aware of sexual assault prior to 2003.
Beginning in 2003, the number of incidents involving Brandon’s inappropriate sexual behavior increased, the report adds.
The first recorded incident addressed by the examination occurred on January 16, 2003, when Brandon was observed to touch another resident “inappropriately”.
Between that date and 2011, he engaged in “a large number of highly abusive and sexually intrusive behaviors”.
“The evidence available on the record suggests that Brandon routinely targeted particular individuals and was able to identify particularly vulnerable residents whom he relentlessly pursued,” the report said.
The review found that a “common management strategy” to deal with Brandon’s behavior was to move him to different departments. It was moved a total of nine times during the 15-year period covered by the review.
“While each of these moves provided some respite for the staff and residents of the ward that Brandon was leaving, unfortunately they also gave him access to other residents, many of whom became new victims of his abusive behavior,” indicates the report.
On December 22, 2011, Brandon was moved to House 2, in the Stillwater complex, to live on his own, away from other vulnerable residents.
“Although this move resulted in a sharp reduction in the number of recorded sexual assaults, unfortunately, on September 5, 2013, he was again transferred to the first house to live with the residents he had previously assaulted,” said the report.
“Brandon’s move to house two appears to be the only successful strategy used in the management of Brandon in that it provided some protection, even in the short term, to the other residents.”
HSE chief executive Paul Reid apologized to residents and their families on Thursday.
“The facts are very clear. Vulnerable people have been sexually abused while in our care. None of us can imagine the impact this has had on the abused people and even their families, ”he said.
“So on behalf of the HSE, I want to apologize, sincerely. For these residents and their families, I simply cannot and cannot imagine the pain they suffered and the pain of receiving the details of this report. We are very, very sorry.
Mr. Reid described the report as “one of the most disgusting reports I have read and one of the most gruesome reports I have had to read in my career.”
He pledged that the HSE would adopt and implement all of the report’s findings.
“I would say to anyone who works in this field, or even all families, please speak up if you have any concerns,” he said during an HSE briefing on Covid-19.
In an earlier statement, the HSE apologized “for the lapses in care.”
“The HSE fully accepts the findings of the National Independent Review Committee (the ‘Brandon’ report),” he said in a statement.
“The HSE received the initial report in August 2020, when Brandon was no longer residing in the department.
“Upon receipt of the report, the HSE took immediate action to ensure the current safety of residents within the department concerned.
“The main concern of the HSE is the current safety of residents. “