A heartbroken mum, who has been diagnosed with cancer, is being forced to meet with her son, who is autistic and has Downs Syndrome, on the pavement outside a St John Of Gods care home.
Pensioner, Doreen Smith from Rathmullan Park in Drogheda has been barred from going inside the gates of the SJOG house in Ard Na Meara at Blackrock outside Dundalk.
She admits to raising her voice to staff in a disagreement over an incident in July 2021 in which her son Barry was allowed leave the house unaccompanied.
Doreen,(73), insists that Barry indicated to her he had gone to a nearby area to go on a swing, something which would see him have to cross two busy roads to get there while staff are adamant he only walked to the end of the street and back and was always in the vision of the sole nurse on duty.
Doreen told Meath Live, ‘ I can communicate with Barry and he definitely told me he went to the swings, which he loves, and yes I did raise my voice and was quite forceful over this in a discussion with staff about it.
‘There was never a threat of physical violence but I’ll admit I was angry he got out unsupervised wouldn’t any mother be.
‘A big issue surrounding this is that it was six days after the incident took place before we were told, at the time I was still with my husband but we recently split up after 53 years and the pressure over this had a lot to do with that’
In a letter to Doreen SJOG confirm Barry left the house unaccompanied at 21.20 pm on July 5th 2021,and say, ‘ Staff heard the front door open and observed Barry walking out the front of the house.
‘They immediately followed him out and stood in the gate and observed him walk down the footpath, he was gone for eight minutes and HIQA have not been informed as this was not an unexplained absence,’
Crucially they admit, ‘ He was out of sight at the bend in the cul de sac,’
When Doreen was first banned she was allowed inside the gate but that has now changed.
She revealed, ‘At the moment when I visit Barry I have to stay outside the gate of the house, they initially allowed me come to the front door but they have now stopped me doing that, I can’t drive so I cannot bring Barry for a cup of coffee and if it is raining we both get soaked.
‘There are other little things in place as well which I find frustrating, I can’t buy Barry clothes or take him for a hair cut.’
Incredibly the ban saw Barry forced to try on a new shirt for his sisters wedding while standing on a public footpath outside the house, an incident referred to as an ‘indignity’, in a letter from Mike Egan, the Regional Resource Officer for Downs Syndrome, to SJOG.
Doreen recalls, ‘Mike is correct it was undignified, it happened in late April a week before his sister got married.’
Egans letter sent on the 29th of May this year concludes, ‘ Clearly this is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue, causing distress to all involved with especial concern for Barry, and if it can’t be resolved between the service provider and the family an alternative resolution must be found.’
A resolution is something Doreen definitely wants.
She said, ‘I stood up for my son, I make no apologies for that but all I want is to be treated the same as any other visitor and allowed see my son in comfort, I mean it is bad enough now but what happens when winter comes will be forced to have the visit in the freezing cold I’m not in the best of health and this is not helping me.’
A spokesperson for St John Of Gods said in a statement, ‘St John of God North East Services cannot speak about individual cases but can confirm that it has acted with regard to a safeguarding situation that has recently arisen at one of its residences in the region, in which an external 3rd party visitor was personally abusive on several separate occasions towards members of staff.
‘This highly distressing situation has unfortunately occurred on several occasions in the recent past, each time generating significant distress to the other residents, all of whom have an intellectual disability and live at the address in question.
‘On foot of a complaint made by the residents and also by staff working at the location to management at St John of God North East Services, the issue has been escalated to the HSE.
‘As a result, the person in question, has been requested not to enter the residence going forward but is of course free to arrange to meet with and engage with her own family member who is a resident at the location, at any time whatsoever at any other external location.’