Health Minister Edwin Poots has urged workers with any knowledge about alleged abuse of vulnerable adults at a Londonderry care home to come forward.
The minister said that it was the duty of health staff to report any wrongdoing they have witnessed — and he gave assurances they would be protected under a whistleblowing policy.
Mr Poots was speaking after the chairwoman of the Assembly’s health committee, Sue Ramsey, submitted an urgent question seeking assurances that the safety of the residents at Ralph's Close would now be guaranteed.
The Health Minister confirmed last night that there had been five failure to comply notices issued to the Western Health Trust over Ralph’s Close in August, as first revealed by the Belfast Telegraph.
These related to concerns raised by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) following unannounced inspections made at the care home after the anonymous abuse allegations were made on July 24.
Among the catalogue of issues raised by the watchdog was that it was not informed of a number of accidents involving residents, while serious injuries were neither recorded nor reported.
Concerns were also raised after one resident was found with both hands bound in bandages, and four errors in the administration of medicines were not reported to the RQIA as required.
Ms Ramsey had asked what steps the minister would take to ensure that the residents of Ralph’s Close “are not subjected to further risk or potential harm”.
Mr Poots said the issues raised by RQIA “need to be taken very seriously” and confirmed that two of the five failure notices have now been complied with.
He said, however, that in relation to the ongoing safeguarding arrangements, key agencies involved have now taken steps to safeguard the residents of Ralph’s Close.
He said independent monitoring at the home is |now “on a 24/7 basis” while additional external monitoring from another Trust |was actively being sought.
Ralph’s Close is a two-year-old residential facility providing accommodation for 16 adults with a range of learning disabilities including communication difficulties and autism.
The allegations of abuse were lodged anonymously on July 24. The PSNI and the Western Health and Social Care Trust are investigating the claims, while a number of staff have been suspended.