FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE IRISH MAIL ON SUNDAY ON 12/06/2011
The Irish Mail on Sunday can today chart, in unprecedented detail, the rise and fall of the family running the scandal-ridden Rostrevor Nursing Home. An investigation has revealed how their cash-rich business – initially owned jointly by Therese Lipsett and her one-time army officer husband, Robert – funded the family’s glamorous, socialite lifestyle for decades.
But a mysterious division of the family’s assets in 2001 and subsequent property purchases, appear to have weakened the business substantially.
As they expanded their property portfolio, a litany of damning breaches of care regulations at the home emerged, leading to the family’s operation being the subject of a Garda investigation.
At one point, pressure caused by the repeated scandals – such as a failed health board attempt in 2004 to close the home – even saw Mrs Lipsett offer accommodation to students and builders in an attempt to keep the family finances afloat.
‘Attention Builders. Accommodation for 40 builders. Breakfast and evening meal offered,’ reads a classified that she ran in the Irish Independent in 2005.
Now in the control of Sarah Lipsett, the home is burdened with four outstanding mortgages, one of them for more than €1m.
And having hugely written up the value of its property during the boom, the company has been forced to write down its assets by €1.4m.
The latest scandal, involving allegations of assault on patients by a suspended nurse, is not the first.
Mrs Lipsett herself, along with two former staff, was struck off the nurses’ register over her handling of the serious sexual abuse of a patient in the home in 2005.
For their part, the Lipsetts have defended their record, and accused three foreign staff behind the latest allegations of abuse of conducting a vindictive campaign because they had been caught conducting an alleged fraud on the home.
Born in Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo, Mrs Lipsett qualified as a nurse in 1974 and spent most of her career at the Jervis Street Hospital in Dublin.
Together with her husband, Robert, she set up the Rostrevor Nursing Home in 1984. Its prestigious location – on the corner of Orwell Road and Zion Road in Rathgar – appealed to wealthy families looking for a safe and secure environment for elderly relatives.
Enlarge In 1990, Mr Lipsett set up a company, Othello Hotel Ltd, which ran a bed and breakfast business on Dublin’s Lower Gardiner Street.
Seven years later, they bought their first investment property – an apartment in Pembroke Square off Upper Grand Canal Street in D4.
The only apparent glitch was in 1998, when the home’s auditor warned he could not confirm that all income – in excess of €300,000 – had been properly recorded since the company had no system in place to control cash transactions.
In 2000, Mrs Lipsett bought a second apartment, this time in her own name, in Dublin 7.
But within a year, for unknown reasons, Mr Lipsett sold his share of the company to his wife for more than €1m.
Sarah Lipsett joined her mother as a director, and an Anglo Irish Bank loan was obtained to fund the share purchase.
On the same day of the Anglo loan, Mr Lipsett transferred his half share in the family home in Zion Road over to his wife.
In return, she transferred to him her share of the hotel and the Pembroke Square apartment.
Whatever the reason for the asset split, the control of the company was vested in Mrs Lipsett, and concerns about standards at the nursing home seem to have begun creeping up shortly afterwards.
For their part, the Lipsetts have defended their record, and accused three foreign staff behind the latest allegations of abuse of conducting a vindictive campaign because they had been caught conducting an alleged fraud on the home
We now know that in January 2001 and again in March of 2002 a doctor expressed serious concerns to the health board about standards of care.
But 2002 was a crucial year for the Lipsetts financially, too. On July 28, estate agents Lyndsay revalued the company’s property assets from under €700,000 to €2.5m in one stroke of a pen.
The company took out a new Bank of Scotland loan in 2003, its fourth outstanding mortgage at the time.
A year later, as the loans mounted, the health board brought prosecutions against the home in the District Court, citing 23 breaches of regulations, mostly relating to the care of residents.
Alleged breaches included the improper administration of drugs, a lack of properly trained staff and inadequate standards of care.
On one occasion, bedsores on an elderly, incontinent patient were found to have been contaminated by faecal matter.
Even before the prosecutions took place, the health board went to the High Court to try and have the home shut down.
The case began in August 2004, and heard evidence that ‘staffing, training and drug administration rules’ had all been breached.
One nurse had been rostered for 72 hours in one week. There were no fire drills carried out despite residents found smoking in their rooms, and entrances to the home were found unsecured, with patients known to have wandered out.
The Lipsetts argued that the problems had been resolved since and the patients were all happy to stay.
Mrs Lipsett was struck off along with two former nurses over her handling of the serious sexual abuse in the home in 2005
The judge ruled that there were no legal grounds under which the board could have it shut down, and allowed it to continue operating.
But while Mrs Lipsett was fighting off these multiple attempts to have her business closed, she and Sarah formed a new company.
The unfortunately named Riprob Ltd was paid an up front investment of almost €500,000 by the Lipsetts’ nursing home company, which proceeded to write off the investment.
In October 2003, another daughter, Avila – a budding DJ and girl about town – was appointed as a director of the home.
The health board continued with its legal actions, however. In September 2005, the District Court heard that one female resident, aged 101, had slept every night for a year in a Buxton chair, a type of tilting chair that was much-criticised after the Leas Cross scandal.
After the case, Mrs Lipsett accepted there were ‘technical breaches’ before adding: ‘The court, however, clearly found and noted that there was no wilful neglect of anyone in Rostrevor. I would never allow that to happen. I feel my innocence has been established in a court of law.’
This statement was made less than two months after she had allowed one of the carers, Stuart William Cummings, to continue working after multiple claims emerged that he had sexually assaulted a female patient.
The nursing board struck her off last December after finding that he had carried out multiple sexual assaults on an elderly patient but she allowed him to keep working with patients for months. Not only that but when his employment was terminated she provided a reference to a nursing agency and a hospital.
The board wrote that ‘allegations proven’ included: ‘you allowed Nurse X to continue working as a staff nurse without any or any adequate supervision notwithstanding the serious allegations made to you about his conduct.
‘You thereby exposed Ms. X and other residents to the risk of inappropriate or abusive nursing care.
‘You furnished references to subsequent or potential employers, including a Nursing Agency and X Hospital which you knew or ought to have known were untrue, inaccurate, false or misleading.’
The abuse and the failure of Mrs Lipsett and her manager to act upon it would see all concerned struck off the nursing register.
But until then the home stayed open, with largely satisfactory HSE inspection reports between 2007 and 2009, and their empire kept growing.
The abuse and the failure of Mrs Lipsett and her manager to act upon it would see all concerned struck off the nursing register
In 2008, Mrs Lipsett acquired an apartment in Dublin’s Smithfield market without recourse to a mortgage or loan.
And by then, the family had also acquired an apartment in the Spanish resort of Puerto Banus.
That same year, a concerned former employee came forward to report the 2005 sexual abuse.
That set in train an closed-door inquiry that concluded last December, with the High Court affirming the striking off of Mrs Lipsett and her two former nurses.
Mrs Lipsett stepped down as a director of her own nursing home in favour of in March.
Details of the case against Mrs Lipsett were not released publicly by the nursing board, An Bord Altranais, until April and even then, the nursing home concerned was not named and Mrs Lipsett was referred to as Ann Therese Connolly, her maiden name.
But by then yet another scandal had emerged: the one that would wrest the home from their grasp.
Following claims of assaults against patients in May, a series of inspections were undertaken. On May 27, the Health Information Quality Authority informed the Garda of its concerns and the next day, three staff agreed to act as whistleblowers.
What they said was sufficient to prompt the authority to seek an immediate seizure of control of the home for the safety of the patients.
The Lipsetts fought to resist the move but a temporary order handing control to the authorities was allowed stand.
The matter will be back in court again next week but the fallout for the Lipsetts looks set to continue for far longer.
The care home boss with racy views on pornography, film, lust… and Cheryl
By PHILIP RYAN
The joint director of Rostrevor Nursing Home stayed firmly in the shadows last week, refusing all interview requests and allowing her sister, Sarah, to do all the talking.
Avila Lipsett, a DJ, became a director of the home in October 2003 and is now jointly responsible for what happens there.
She has declined to say what qualifies her for the role, and her limited public CV gives little clue as to her qualifications to run a care home for the elderly.
The only insights given into her personality and world view come from her internet blog, which she has been using to give her thoughts on life for the past few months.
Avila has used the online diary to post naked pictures of men and women, discuss pornography, her love of swearing and ‘Women I’d Turn For’, as well as racing, republican politics and the visit of the Queen.
And while her musings are doubtless the same as those of many highly privileged twenty-something D4 singletons, they will undoubtedly raise questions as to her suitably for such a sensitive role as director of a care home.
On Thursday, May 26, for example, inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority were conducting their second consecutive day of inspections at the Rostrevor Nursing Home. However, Avila’s blog was preoccupied with the ongoing Cheryl Cole American X Factor saga.
She wrote: ‘I hope this X-Factor scandal turns into something bigger – like Cheryl is pregnant with Simon’s baby but he’s in love with Paula…’
The next day, as inspectors passed on their concerns of shocking allegations of violence and substandard care of residents to the Garda, Avila blogged about singer Chris Brown, who was last year revealed to have savagely beaten his then girlfriend, pop star Rihanna.
‘In case you’re wondering why I’ve an obsession with CB dancing, it’s coz the boy can move,’ said Avila, seemingly undeterred by his propensity for domestic violence.Earlier in May, she posted a fully nude picture of Kelly Brooke’s boyfriend Thom Evans.
She offered the picture to readers saying: ‘Here’s a gratuitous picture to use as your screen saver if you’re into beautiful sculpted menfolk touched by the hand of God.’
Elsewhere, she posts a picture of a US actor ‘looking smoking with no top in case you’re one of many who couldn’t give a s*** about the Pucci dress and just care about man candy of the highest order,’ adding: ‘Break me off some of that…’
And Lizzie Jagger later feels Avila’s wrath for NOT exposing herself more fully for a photoshoot with Playboy magazine.
Avila said: ‘The essence of Playboy was really to show off your private parts and boobies so what was Lizzie trying to do with this 70s’s inspired theme? She should have just gone the whole nine yards and charged Playboy more for it.’
In April, in a post called Women I’d Turn For, Avila posted a picture of Victoria’s Secret model, Ana Beatriz Barros smoking a cigarette and claimed the model makes ‘smoking cool again’.
She also gives her thoughts on the politics of the Queen’s visit.
People like Sinn Féin make it ‘embarrassing to be Irish’, she says, before adding: ‘Get over it already Gerry Adams, and while you’re at it have a shave.’
Resident fell out of window, but ambulance was not called till next day
By PHILIP RYAN
A pensioner plunged 20 feet from a window in Rostrevor Nursing Home but staff left it until the next day to seek medical help.
Seán Hayes, 71, was found to have serious injuries when he was rushed to hospital in an ambulance the day after his fall. He died five weeks later.
The incident happened in 2002 but only emerged at an inquest in Dublin City Coroner’s Court in 2004. Staff at the nursing home, co-founded by Therese Lipsett, didn’t take Mr Hayes to hospital when he fell from the window as they felt there was ‘no cause for concern’.
However, the next morning they noticed his stomach had become swollen and took him to St James’s Hospital.
Previous incidents at the home include the death in 2002 of a patient who fell 20ft from a window
X-rays taken there revealed that he had suffered multiple fractures. He died at St James’s on December 5, 2002, of a cardiac arrhythmia.
The Coroner’s Court heard that in October 2002 Mr Hayes, who was staying in the Rathgar nursing home, was found at the front door of the house looking ‘shocked and pale’ in damp clothes, with grass on his feet.
Staff noticed that his window was open and asked him if he had jumped from the window in his room, to which he replied he had.
Dublin City deputy coroner Maria Colbert told the inquest: ‘That evening nursing staff felt he was all right and gave no cause for concern.’
‘He was kept under observation all night. The next morning his stomach was distended and he was admitted to hospital.’
During his stay in St James’s, Mr Hayes picked up the superbug MRSA.
‘In contracting the injuries he became immobile, which made him more vulnerable to infections,’ said pathologist Dr David Delaney.
While his death was ultimately the result of cardiac arrest and bronchial pneumonia, Mr Hayes spent almost five weeks in hospital before he died.
The pathologist said the pensioner had an underlying heart disease, which was aggravated by the pneumonia and the MRSA infection, leading to his death.
Dr Colbert said: ‘He wouldn’t have been in hospital if he hadn’t fallen.’
The coroner returned a verdict of death by misadventure.