A report by MOT, the unit of Yle’s investigative journalism unit, has revealed serious shortcomings in the treatment of people with intellectual disabilities in some facilities around the country and in the prevention of beatings by management or authorities.
The MOT dealt with a total of 64 cases related to the use of restrictive measures, which had been sent to the Regional State Administrative Agencies (Avi) and the Social and Health Surveillance Agency to Valvira. In 56 of the cases, the measures used were criticized.
In one case, in a mental health institution run by Mehiläinen, a private social and health care center in Hämeenlinna, a young male resident was constantly restrained by tying the chair with air-conditioning tape. He was also tied to his bed at night.
One employee, who remained anonymous, told the MOT that employees were instructed to prevent the boy from injuring himself by restraining him by all possible means.
"The boss’s instruction was to tie him to the chair with duct tape, which was just awful." the employee said. Restraining the boy in this way continued for about five years until it ended in 2019, when the doctor visited the facility and noticed its use.
A minor patient – who suffers from severe autism as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder – was also subjected to physical violence for several years.
This included one former male employee sitting on top of the boy to prevent him from hitting his head against a wall, and a former female employee punched him in the face twice in 2016. The court later ordered him to pay 50 linked daily fines.
The male employee was not reprimanded for his actions, but according to the employees interviewed by the MOT, it was just one of several different forms of violence against a man’s minor resident, even though management was aware of the cases.
Employees of the unit reported complaints to local authorities, bypassing Mehiläinen’s top management after repeated failures. A private provider admitted to the MOT that there had been failures in the boy’s care.
Management finds whistleblowers “awkward.”
Former employees interviewed by the MOT said they had tried for years to highlight the plant’s problems, including several complaints on both the regional Avi and the city.
When trying to resolve grievances with management, interviewees said the result was often just a reproach to the employee who raised the issue.
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This was also reported by several interviewees "embarrassing" employees knew in advance that making a complaint would lead management to make their working lives very uncomfortable.
"There was a kind of threat that if he didn’t do this or that, then the supervisor wouldn’t be flexible, for example, by not agreeing to shift requests. So you really have nothing to want. It was such an incredible humiliation," one employee said.
Other interviewees reported receiving inappropriate warnings.
When the discussion with the management of the unit did not lead to anything, some employees also expressed concerns about occupational health or other units.
However, they later found that the information provided in the allegedly confidential meetings ended up with management.
Sari Vuorilampi, Valvira ‘s chief inspector, told MOT that he is "upset" care of the boy.
Tying him to the chair with duct tape was a completely illegal restriction measure, he said, adding that practical use in the facility requires further investigation.
"This is really sad. It is completely inhumane from the point of view of people with intellectual disabilities and, in fact, from the point of view of almost anyone," The mountain pond said, adding that this appears to be a police matter.
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MOT also contacted Mehiläinen – who took over the management of the property in 2015 – as well as the former owner.
Mehiläinen did not want to be interviewed for the story, but the company’s quality control manager Mikko Purhonen answered questions via email. The former owner did not respond to MOT’s request.
"Lamenting the situation," Purhonen wrote. "Remedial action has been taken in collaboration with relatives and the city more than two years ago and the unit’s activities are being closely monitored."
He added that changes were made to the unit after the 2019 assault conviction.
"Extensive corrective action has been taken: those involved in the situations no longer work in the unit, the management of the unit has been strengthened and guidelines and policies have been revised more effectively," Purhonen wrote.
Source: The Nordic Page