The HSE is to review the standard of care being provided to 65,000 older people in their own homes.
This follows a four-month undercover investigation by the RTE Prime Time Investigates programme, broadcast last night, which found appalling standards of care by a number of private home care providers paid by the HSE.
The HSE said it is investigating the cases highlighted in the programme, and if there was a lack of suitable care the HSE will terminate the contracts and/or change providers.
The programme found there are an estimated 150 companies providing home care in Ireland yet the area remains unregulated with no standards and no legal obligation on the home care provider companies to vet staff. Around 10% of this home care is provided by private companies and is a lucrative industry.
The RTE programme sent a number of people to work undercover as care workers for some of these firms.
The investigation uncovered companies hiring workers with no training, no Garda vetting and no checking of references.
The programme filmed an elderly women being force-fed by a care worker employed by one company, Clontarf Home Care Services.
Clontarf Home Care Services said three staff members have since been suspended pending a full investigation.
It cited evidence of staff not being properly trained to lift care recipients or to deal with pressure sores, and of the "dumping" of medications. One elderly man alleged he had a considerable sum of money stolen from him by a staff member working for one private firm.
Minister for Older People Aine Brady said it was clear that in the cases shown on Prime Time, the behaviour and practices highlighted breached trust in an unacceptable way.
"I am particularly concerned at the effects that any breach of trust has on the care recipients and their families and loved ones.”
The Minister said the HSE had also requested all of its local managers to review their own services and their private providers and ascertain that they were satisfied with the care being provided.
Minister Brady said the HSE has been working with the Department of Health and Children on a number of key initiatives which will strengthen overall governance in this area and will be implemented and published in the first half of next year.
However, the safety body HIQA told the Primetime programme it was not aware of any imminent plans for regulation of the home care sector.
The HSE, in a statement, said it took seriously the concerns raised in the RTE programme. Contact was being made with the organisations featured and a review of contractual arrangements was underway.
It said it had been assured by one of the companies featured that staff members had been suspended pending a full investigation.
The HSE said services around the country had been alerted to the issues raised on Primetime so they can review arrangements with service providers for those in receipt of home help or home care packages to ensure they are appropriate to the clients' needs.
The HSE's information line 1850 24 1850 is open Monday to Saturday 8am-8pm for thsoe who wish to make a complaint or access the elder abuse reporting service.
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