The number of security officers guarding entrances and exits at the St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly has tripled since the disappearance of a resident in June.
Active Ageing Minister Jo Etienne Abela said almost 40 security officers had been added to the 20 who had already been working at the care home. He told Times of Malta that the emergency measures had to be put in place with urgency following the disappearance of Carmelo Fino, an 83-year-old dementia sufferer who escaped from the facility in the middle of the night.
Also known as Karmenu and Charlie, he was caught on CCTV leaving the Luqa home at 3am on June 28. In his inquiry findings, Judge Geoffrey Valenzia pinned the responsibility for Fino’s disappearance on the staff on duty that night.
Four security officers, two carers and a nurse at the St Vincent de Paul Residence – all Maltese nationals – have since been suspended on half pay upon the instructions of the Public Service Commission. Another carer, who was employed by a contractor and assigned to the care home, has been replaced by another employee.
Tests on a corpse found underneath a tree in Birżebbuġa are seeking to establish whether the remains are Fino’s. However, weak DNA samples have stalled the identification process, according to sources close to the case.
The increased presence of security guards was just one of a raft of increased security at the home, with elderly residents ordered not to leave their wards, go for a walk or attend mass unless accompanied by a nurse, carer or relative.
Residents lambasted the new strict measures, saying that their privacy and freedom had been stripped away from them as they are being placed under constant watch.
Since then, a multidisciplinary assessment was put in place and 75 residents have been given what is known as a free pass with which they can walk around the facility freely and can also leave the care home as long as they state where they are going.
The home needs modernisation and rejuvenation- Minister Jo Etienne Abela
No plans for new inquiry
The suspended nurse, Rhys Xuereb, this week called for a fresh inquiry after the judge failed to call him in for his version of events before pinning the blame on him.
But Abela ruled out calling another inquiry.
“I have full confidence in the independent inquiry which was conducted by an irreproachable judge and a senior staff nurse who were given the free hand to investigate everything and everyone. I do not think the report is not credible (fażull) as claimed and yes, I rule out ordering another one,” he said.
Minister insists it is 'not a system failure'
Abela also dismissed the claim about a misdiagnosis of Fino’s dementia on the part of the doctors, insisting that “misdiagnosis is not part of the blame apportioning process” and focusing on this would be tantamount to “missing the wood for the trees”.
“The incident was not a system failure because there are standard operating procedures which the inquiry found had not been followed. We have already started a process to update these SOPs,” he said.
An audit had been carried out on the security cameras at the care home and efforts are under way to ensure that the footage is monitored around the clock.
Abela said that while not everything was rosy at the care home, procedures were in place and efforts to step up security had been under way for some time before the incident. “The home needs modernisation and rejuvenation. The process started by my predecessors and it’s continuing,” he said.