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Muckamore scandal: Sister of ‘mistreated’ patient tells how revelations left her shocked and upset

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A former patient said male and female staff members were present when she was strip searched at the hospital.(Presseye)

A former patient said male and female staff members were present when she was strip searched at the hospital.(Presseye)

A former patient said male and female staff members were present when she was strip searched at the hospital.(Presseye)

The sister of a former Muckamore patient was “shocked” and “upset” when she was told her loved one had been “mistreated” at the hospital, a public inquiry has been told.

The sister of the former patient, who was admitted to the hospital on the outskirts of Antrim on multiple occasions between 1980 and 2018, has said they believed her brother was happy and well treated at the hospital.

However, Nicola told the Muckamore Abbey Hospital Inquiry that the family was contacted by a family liaison officer in July 2020 who told them two incidents in August 2017 involving her brother had been detected on CCTV.

Details of what happened during the incidents were not made public during Tuesday’s hearing, although police are currently reviewing 200,000 hours of CCTV footage from within the hospital in the UK’s largest ever safeguarding investigation.

Nicola said they had never noticed any suspicious or unexplained marks on her brother, named as Greg.

She explained: “They advised us he [Greg] had been mistreated.

"It was hard to believe this was allowed to happen. It is wrong what my brother and other vulnerable adults had to go through, such a horrible ordeal.”

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Earlier a former patient told the inquiry she was strip searched against her will at the facility.

The witness, who was at the hospital between 2016 and 2017, described the searches as “rape” and said her clothes were removed and staff “would use their hands to feel all around my body”.

The former patient also said male and female staff members were present during the strip searches.

A statement from the witness said: “I was not comfortable when they did this. They shouldn’t have done this.”

The 42-year-old, who has learning difficulties, autism, epilepsy and depression, spent a year in the Cranfield ward at Muckamore, and told the inquiry that she asked why the strip searches were being carried out.

She said she was informed it was to search for sharp objects. The woman also said she “tried to cover up what happened” from her nanny during visits and would say she was “okay”.

However, the witness revealed that she told her she had been raped after being discharged from Muckamore.

The statement continued: “She didn’t believe me. I didn’t tell anyone else. If nanny didn’t believe me, who else would?”

The woman told the inquiry she was expected to intervene when another patient would take off their clothes. She was asked to distract her fellow patient by playing a game with her.

“I didn’t want to do this,” she said.

She said she was told to wash and clean tables and that she wasn’t allowed to have her phone or take photographs during her time at Muckamore.

Earlier, the inquiry heard that another former patient, now aged 53, had to have his arm amputated due to a staff failure to keep a surgical wound clean.

The man’s brother told the inquiry that his sibling sustained a broken arm which he believed happened at Muckamore.  He underwent a number of operations at the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) to fix his broken arm and was discharged back to Muckamore with instructions on wound care.

However, he was admitted back to the RVH a month later with an infection in his arm.

The witness, whose name was given as Ian, said he was told by a doctor at RVH the infection had occurred as the wound “wasn’t cleaned properly at Muckamore”.

The inquiry was told Ian’s brother, identified as Stephen, had an MRSA infection and was put on a drip and needed six antibiotics.

At one stage, the inquiry heard he was “at death’s door” and Stephen’s family was told, that in order to save his life, doctors “would need to amputate his arm”.

Ian said his brother still suffers from phantom pains, but has difficulty verbalising this.

He also told of significant challenges for the family in trying to find out what had happened to his brother and how he had suffered such an extreme infection. He said the family was not part of any investigation, nor were they told the outcome.

The inquiry was shown a photograph of Stephen with relatives taken when he first arrived at Muckamore in 1988.

Ian said: “Those windows were like prison windows, there was a solid steel door going in with a four-inch window at the top. It wasn’t a good environment to be in. It wasn’t very comfortable.”

Ian said they would hear “a lot of shouting” during visits and that the family was restricted to visiting once a month.

He said they were told they had to make a pre-arranged appointment before coming for a visit but there were limited slots available, meaning they could only visit once a month.

He also described the bed where his brother slept when he first arrived as “an army bed” with no sides.

He said Stephen fell out of the bed and spent the night on the ground after the bed collapsed on him.

“Lucky enough, he wasn’t harmed but staff should have been there to see,” he said.

The inquiry was also told that when Stephen first arrived at Muckamore, he was able to communicate using Makaton sign language, which he learned at school.

However, no one used this with him at Muckamore and he lost the ability to use sign language.

He also revealed his brother is “haunted” by his time in Muckamore, that he believes he suffers flashbacks and also has difficulty sleeping, choosing to sleep on a settee most nights. Ian added that Stephen no longer hits his arms off the walls since leaving Muckamore.

The inquiry then heard a statement from the sister of a 64-year-old former patient, who has severe learning disabilities and epilepsy, and spent time in the hospital in the late 1960s and 2003.

The witness said her sister’s condition quickly deteriorated after her arrival at Muckamore.

“As the days, weeks and months passed, she got worse and worse,” she said.

She said her sister’s health declined to the point where she couldn’t walk, her speech was slurred, she described “slabbers coming from her mouth”, and her eyes rolling in her head.

The woman said her sister was no longer able to feed herself, adding: “She became a danger to herself, she didn’t appear to be able to swallow and was choking on food.”

She outlined that her family was “consistently told she was improving despite our warnings and concerns that she wasn’t”.

The family made multiple complaints but the former patient’s condition only improved when she was taken to the RVH.

“I remember the nurse telling me she was totally overdosed with medication,” the statement said.

“She was in a totally drugged and vegetative state. Within days of being at the RVH, her health improved so dramatically, it was unbelievable. In a week or two, she was back to her normal self.”

The woman told the inquiry her sister spent five months at Muckamore where there was “absolutely no improvement”. However, after five weeks at the RVH, she was well enough to be discharged.

Extracts from a letter of complaint sent by the former patient’s parents were also heard, which said: “It is unforgiveable for them to have let her get into such a pitiful state as her welfare was in their hands.”

The inquiry was also told “the doctors and nurses were negligent in their treatment”.

The former patient’s parents also withdrew from the complaint process as they said: “We will never get a truthful answer to our original question over why she was kept in a drugged state for over five months.”

The inquiry is due to continue on Wednesday before breaking for the summer.


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