Safeguarding Bill ‘Not Possible’

Ireland’s Department of Health has said the creation of a safeguarding bill for vulnerable adults will not be possible.

The Irish News reported that health chiefs say they need a minister to implement some of the key recommendations of a report into care failings at Belfast nursing home, Dunmurry Manor.

After a worker told the police that residents of the home were being locked into their own rooms, the police service Northern Ireland referred the matter to the South Eastern Trust, allowing the home to investigate the matter internally.

‘Horrific catalogue of inhuman treatment’

Professor John Williams was one of the experts who helped put together a report into the home for Northern Ireland’s commissioner of older people. The investigation found, “a horrific catalogue of inhuman and degrading treatment”.

The Department of Health’s most senior civil servant, Richard Pengelly, said that although the department will act on most of the problems flagged up by the investigation, a safeguarding bill wasn’t possible. The investigation recommended the installation of covert CCTV footage in care homes, but this would require ministerial sign-off.

Relatives of the pensioner, Annie McCourt, staged a protest in response, objecting to the lack of action around the review. Mrs McCourt was a resident at the home from January to June 2016. The 89-year-old suffered a fall, but it took the staff ten hours to alert her family. When they arrived at the home, they found her slumped on a chair with vomit down her back.

Residents starved

The investigation found residents had been starved, denied medication and in some cases sexually assaulted by other residents.

The Commissioner, Eddie Lynch, criticised the Department of Health and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority for their response to whistle-blower complaints and their inspection processes.

Mrs McCourt’s granddaughter, Jullieann McNally, has been campaigning on behalf of her grandmother since the publication of the report. She said the family’s main contact had been with the police, who are now carrying out an investigation into the neglect, but she and her family had received no direct contact from any health officials.

Ms McNally added that a critical review into another care home four years ago had been accepted by the health department, but not acted on and if this had taken place, what happened at Dunmurry Manor might have been avoided.

Mr Pengelly said the Department of Health took the commissioner’s report very seriously and would set out a package of measures to address its recommendations.

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