An investigation into a Belfast care home has found a “horrific catalogue of inhuman and degrading treatment”.
The NI Commissioner for Older People investigated care and safety of residents with dementia at Dunmurry Manor care home.
It found “many spending their last few months living in appalling circumstances”.
The managing director of Runwood Care Homes, which owns Dunmurry Manor, has resigned.
A company spokesperson said Logan Logeswaran had stepped down following the findings of the report.
Northern Ireland’s Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, said the report outlined a “disturbing picture where there were many significant failures in safeguarding care and treatment”.
This led to many of the residents “not receiving adequate protection for prolonged periods of time”.
The Runwood Homes Group has issued an apology:
“I am truly sorry we failed to deliver the high standards of care our residents at Dunmurry Manor had the right to expect and that, because of those failures, they and their families have had to endure this distressing experience,” chief executive Gordon Sanders said.
The company said it had put a new Northern Ireland senior management team in place in August 2017 and that families could be assured that corrective action has been taken:
“We are stringently enforcing the very highest standards of operating, technology and service delivery.
We guarantee that any resident or family member with concerns can make easy direct contact with senior directors.”
Dunmurry Manor opened in 2014 but repeated inspections found problems while family members and former employees also raised concerns.
Patricia Clydesdale’s 92-year-old mother, Esther Hamilton, was at Dunmurry Manor for a short period between October and December 2016 when she was recovering a serious fall.
Mrs Hamilton suffered a series of indignities as her daughter explained:
“She wasn’t being washed properly, she wasn’t being attended to when she pushed the buzzer, she’d had a few falls which we knew hadn’t been recorded.
“She had complained to us as a family that people were coming into her room during the day and at night.”
Mrs Clydesdale said her mother was left frightened by the whole experience and wanted to come home.
“Her human rights were certainly violated, things we take as standard rights, and her dignity was nil.”
Runwood now operates 11 care homes in NI. Last year Ashbrooke Care Home was closed after an urgent inspection found a number of issues.
Last year the RQIA, the body that regulates care in Northern Ireland, said the home was not meeting the required standards and stopped new admissions.
However, it is now operating free from restrictions and accepting new residents.
In February 2017, Eddie Lynch said he was using his formal investigative powers for the first time to begin an inquiry into the home.
Describing his findings as “deeply concerning”, the investigation also found reports of “evidence of physical and sexual assault on female residents” and of residents leaving the home unnoticed.
The overall situation was compounded by a “failure of responsible bodies to act quickly and comprehensively”.
The commissioner said it had become clear as his investigation went on that none of the bodies involved in regulating the home, including the RQIA, were aware of the full scale of the issues being experienced by the residents:
“My investigation found that many of these terrible incidents occurred during periods of time when the regulator, the RQIA, reported the home to be meeting the required standards of care.
“Despite the regulator carrying out 23 inspections in a 39-month period, they did not find the extent of the problems experienced by many residents.”
The commissioner’s report makes 59 recommendations – among them that an adult safeguarding bill should be introduced without delay and that all staff in care settings should be trained in the implications of human rights on their work.
On the issue of care and treatment, it backs a recommendation made in the recent report into hyponatraemia-related deaths that trusts should ensure healthcare workers know what is required from them when reporting serious adverse incidents (SAIs).
Failure to report an SAI, it says, should be a disciplinary offence, it says.
Mr Lynch also backed the call for a statutory duty of candour also made in the hyponatraemia report.
Open and honest
This would mean that every health and social care organisation and everyone working for them would have to be open and honest in all their dealings with their patients and the public.
This would, Mr Lynch said, “help address some of the concerns emerging from this investigation.”
In an unexpected move the Department of Health this week published two reports, one of which assessed the home’s current standards of care and said “during the visits Dunmurry was assessed as being a safe place for people to live quality lives.”