FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE IRISH MAIL ON 12/06/2011
By: Philip Ryan, Michael O’Farrell
THE Irish Mail on Sunday today reveals how nursing home owner and society figure Therese Lipsett covered up a series of sickening sex attacks on an elderly woman in her care.
Mrs Lipsett, who had set up the Rostrevor home in 1984, was warned by members of staff that one of her nurses was getting into bed with the vulnerable woman, exposing himself to her, touching her sexually and making her touch him.
However she did not call the gardaí, the HSE or any other authorities – nor did she have the victim medically examined, nursing body An Bord Altranais found. Instead, Mrs Lipsett left the abuser – Stuart William Cummings – to carry on working as before, wholly unsupervised. According to the board, her inaction exposed the victim – and other patients at the south Dublin home – to further sex attacks.
The report also pointed out that the nurse brought drink into the nursing home and was under the influence while on duty.
Even more shockingly, when Cummings was later fired from Rostrevor, Mrs Lipsett gave him fake references for jobs at a hospital and a nursing agency – thereby exposing other vulnerable old people to similar sickening assaults.
The revelations came as gardaí swooped on the Dublin 6 home, which has been shut down by health watchdogs after separate allegations of physical abuse against patients by a different staff member.
While the Lipsett family have insisted all the allegations are false, their credibility will be severely damaged by the shocking revelations about Mrs Lipsett’s cover-up of past abuse at Rostrevor.
The sex attacks took place in 2005 but were not investigated until 2008, when a former Rostrevor staffer reported them to the nursing board.
Had the member of staff not come forward, Mrs Lipsett’s cover-up might well still be in effect – and Cummings could still be employed in a hospital or residential home with unfettered access to elderly and vulnerable people.
Health watchdogs have refused to say where Cummings worked after Rostrevor – and whether any similar allegations were made at subsequent places of employment. And even though the abuse was reported in 2008, it was not until late 2010 that Mrs Lipsett and Cummings were struck off the nursing register. Although this meant that she was not allowed to run Rostrevor, she was able to hand the home over to her two daughters – and remain involved behind the scenes for several months.
And the Nursing Board ruling against her was made in her maiden name and did not name her nursing home – meaning that relatives of patients at Rostrevor have never been told what happened.
To this day they have no idea how Mrs Lipsett’s actions potentially exposed their loved ones to sex attacks.
Indeed, the wording of the Nursing Board report is framed in such legalistic terms that Mrs Lipsett’s shocking actions have been almost completely ignored in the days since allegations of physical abuse by another staff member first became public. However the revelation of her actions will lead to questions about how someone found guilty of such behaviour could get away with it for so long, and how, when finally exposed, Mrs Lipsett was able to pass the nursing home on to her daughters without anyone outside the family knowing what had happened.
As the MoS can today reveal, this was not the only scandal affecting Rostrevor to go unnoticed this week. Previous incidents at the home include the death in 2002 of a patient who fell 20ft from a window.
The elderly man was discovered by staff after the fall, but they did not call an ambulance until the following day. He died five weeks later of a cardiac arrhythmia. The coroner said the fall contributed to his death.
In 2004, Mrs Lipsett was found guilty of a string of breaches of regulations regarding the running of nursing homes.
However the greatest scandal – the serial sexual abuse of a woman patient – occurred one year later. An investigation by An Bord Altranais found that between February 1, 2005, and July 31, 2005, nurse Stuart Cummings was seen lying in bed with the woman while she was naked. His trousers were lowered.
Cummings also regularly inappropriately kissed the woman, according to the findings of An Bord Altranais’s fitness to practise committee. Staff made allegations about Cummings ‘in or about’ June 2005 but Mrs Lipsett covered up the abuse. In a damning indictment, the Nursing Board levelled a number of claims against Mrs Lipsett, who was named in the report as ‘Ms Ann Teresa Connolly (Lipsitt).
The Fitness to Practise committee noted: ‘You (Mrs Lipsett) failed to undertake any adequate investigation of allegations. You thereby exposed Ms X and other residents at the said home to the risk of inadequate, inappropriate or abusive nursing care.
‘Subsequent to the termination of nurse X’s employment, you furnished… references to … potential employers, including… X Hospital which you knew… were untrue…’ Mrs Lipsett could not be contacted last night to explain why she had not investigated Cummings, why she had allowed him to keep caring for vulnerable people and why she had given him a fake reference.