Pinoys react to BBC expose on elderly abuse

by Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Apr 26 2012 09:49 AM | Updated as of Apr 26 2012 07:15 PM

A picture from the BBC program "Panorama"

LONDON - The world of Britain’s elderly care homes was examined in the program "Panorama" shown on BBC1 on Monday night. The episode dubbed as "Undercover: Elderly Care" exposed the lack of basic, acceptable standards of home care to a resident of Ash Court Care Home in North London.

Hours of undercover footage using a hidden camera, planted by Jane Worroll, a suspecting daughter whose mother was a resident of Ash Court, revealed appalling scenes of poor care, fast feeding, lack of basic humanity, and abuse by five carers, including two Filipinas and one Filipino.

At the center of investigation was 30-year-old Jonathan Aquino, who was caught on camera slapping and manhandling 80-year-old Maria Worroll. The elderly woman, who is suffering from dementia, was confined in the home care for almost a year.

According to the Panorama report, Aquino slapped Worroll seven times in the period of six minutes that he was giving the patient a bed bath. The attacks were unprovoked. He was also caught ridiculing the hapless, old woman.

After the complaint was filed by Jane Worroll, the five carers were investigated and sacked.

Aquino was convicted of abuse of the elderly in the UK court and sentenced to 18 months in jail. He also faces possible deportation when he finishes serving his prison term.

Mixed reactions

In the country where Filipino health care practitioners are respected for quality care and exemplary performance at work, the BBC expose received mixed reactions, particularly from the Filipino community in the UK.

“It was unprovoked, it was unnecessary, it was very damaging. Sana hindi na ito maulit. It’s a big lesson for those carers na nandito. You don’t only do your job as a carer, but you bring along the value, the reputation and the good name of a Filipino carer in general,” said Antonino Gamboa of UNISON.

“Nakakagulat para sa isang Pilipino na magawa niya ang bagay na ito at alam ng mga tao na tayo ay galing sa mapag-arugang nasyon. Bilang isang health care worker, sana huwag tayong husgahan dahil maaring ito ay isang isolated case lang. Kasi ang trabahong ito ay malaki talaga ang pressure. Kaya kailangan natin ang mahabang pasensiya,” said Dennis Dantic, a nurse in the UK.

“As Chair of Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines, kinokondena po natin ito kasi hindi naman po gawain ng mabuting Pinoy ang pangyayaring iyon. Ang opinyon ko lang, sana sa susunod na panahon, mabigyang daan ang lahat ng gawain ng isang carer, dapat may isang kasama pa sa loob ng kuwarto para hindi vulnerable and carer mismo,” said Rommel Abellar of CHRP.

Pinoy union members at the UNISON national health convention in London caught up with Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham. They asked his opinion on the issue of elderly abuse recently presented by the BBC on its program.

Burnham said he will not be quick to condemn the carers, care home and care quality commission until further investigation is done.

“I am not going out to criticize the regulators because it is not fair to, sadly, if somebody wants to do that, how do you stop it?’ he said.

The Philippine Nurses Association of United Kingdom issued a statement saying that Aquino is not a member of PNA-UK.

Aquino was a nurse in the Philippines and was recruited to work in the UK as a carer.

“While we are deeply saddened by this isolated and upsetting news, we would like to emphasize the high quality of nursing care provided for by Filipino nurses as evidenced in and experienced by the greater public,” the statement said.

It also added: “We would like to seek the general public’s forbearance and consideration in so far as quickly generalizing the same manner of nursing practice and behavior for the Filipino nurse at large. We are asking the public to refrain from making sweeping statements about any Filipino nurse or any Filipino for that matter. We believe that this is an isolated case and would like instead learn from it. Furthermore, we would like to ask that impartiality be given to any Filipino individual and any preconception on character, behavior or work ethics be suspended.”

The Philippine embassy in London is willing to extend assistance to Aquino.

“We would be willing to extend the appropriate assistance, such as prison visit, if he requests for this,” said Minister and Consul General Bernie Fernandez. - With a report from Carol Panday