Staff neglected basic practices, inquiry into missing St Vincent de Paule resident concludes

Karmenu Fino went missing from SVDP on 28 June, prompting an internal investigation into his disappearance

An independent inquiry into an elderly man's disappearance from a government residence home found significant shortcomings on the part of staff working the night shift as well as the security team assigned on the night of the disappearance. 

83-year-old resident Karmenu Fino went missing from St Vincent De Paul (SVDP) home on 28 June, prompting the active ageing ministry to order an internal investigation into the case. 

The inquiry, led by retired Judge Geoffrey Valenzia, has since found a number of shortcomings that led to his disappearance. A summarised version of the inquiry reads that the night shift at the ward did not carry out their duty with diligence by failing to monitor those in their care. 

Fino was discovered to be missing at 8am on 28 June after staff working the day shift went to bathe Fino but could not find him. They informed the management, who then contacted the night shift workers. 

These workers said that they saw Fino in his ward at 5:45am. However, a patient who shared the same ward as Fino said that the man was not in his ward at 3am. This was corroborated by CCTV footage which showed Fino walking by Lidl in Luqa at 3:17am. 

"Besides owing to their [night shift] negligence in properly reporting the disappearance of Mr. Fino they consequently misled all those who were involved in the search with precious time being lost allowing Mr. Fino to wander far from the facility," the report found. 

The inquiry pointed out that the home's main gate had been left open without any security detail present to stop Fino from walking out. 

"The security detail assigned between the night of 27-28 June were also responsible for the disappearance of Mr Fino when they left the gate open and unattended when it should have been closed and guarded."

In reaction to the inquiry's findings, the Minister for Active Ageing Jo Etienne Abela said that the findings do not generally reflect on all the employees at SVDP. 

He added that several measures that were recently implemented already satisfy the recommendations laid out in the inquiry, notably an increase in security personnel and an updating of the home's CCTV system. 

The tagging and tracking of residents is also being explored as a possibility. 

The ministry said that the SVDP board agreed on a set of guidelines for a multi-disciplinary assessment to minimise the chances of a similar incident.

The inquiry also recommended a clearer definition of the roles and duties of nurses and carers, as well as a better system of prospective employee scrutiny and better cooperation between workers and management. 

Minister Jo Etienne Abela, along with Permanent Secretary Christine Schembri also met with Mr Carmel Fino’s relatives in an informal meeting. During the meeting, Minister Jo Etienne Abela informed Mr Fino’s relatives with the inquiry findings.