From Iceland — Damning Report Describes Terrible Conditions In Care Home

Damning Report Describes Terrible Conditions In Care Home

Published November 12, 2020

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A damning report has come out describing the terrible conditions residents were kept in at the Arnarholt shelter in Kjalarnes, Vísir reports.

Staff talked in detail on RUV last night, about how the shelter was run in the past, describing how very sick patients were kept in solitary confinement, sometimes for weeks at a time, as punishment. This practise occurred right up until 1971.

They also explained how many patients died due to negligence, and other deaths within the home were left unexamined.

Arnarholt was opened in 1945 and run by the city of Reykjavík. The purpose of the shelter was to care for residents of Reykjavík who could not look after themselves due to illness or disability. Residents at the shelter had a variety of disabilities, and often some degree of mental illness. At the time, Arnarholt was not recognised as a medical institution and admission to the home was the responsibility of the Reykjavík Social Welfare Institute.

No evidence found

An investigation was carried out at the home in 1970, initiated by midwife and city representative of the Association of Liberals and Leftists, Steinunn Finnbogadóttir, whose sister worked at the home. The City Council instructed the Reykjavík Health Council to carry out a detailed examintaion of the activities in the home, and take testimonies from staff working there. No evidence was found for the allegations made and the Health Council found it unnecessary to take more action.

The City Council, however, decided to take action against Arnarholt, despite the conclusions of the examination. The testimonies that had been taken by the Health Council described, among other things, how residents of the shelter were punished by being refused food. The most common punishment, however, was solitary confinement, where residents were locked in a small cell with just one small, barred window.

Following the City Council’s discussion of the problems at Arnarholt, it was decided to transfer the patients to Borgaspítali’s psychiatric ward. Arnarholt operated as a medical institution until 2005.

Dagur B. Eggertsson, Mayor of Reykjavík described these reports as heartbreaking and vowed that they would be discussed by the City Council. “Of course, this is new to us, but we will review it, although it is not clear what will come of it. It is unbelievably painful to read.”

The matter will also be looked into by the Reykjavík City Welfare Council today.

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