A nurse left critically ill after working at a care home at the centre of a deadly Covid-19 outbreak should not have been placed there, an investigation has found.
olette McAfee was diagnosed with Covid-19 after working at Clifton Nursing Home in north Belfast, where nine residents with the virus have died.
An official probe has found a risk assessment was not carried out prior to the Belfast Trust placing her at the home, despite the fact she has diabetes and had come out of retirement to assist with the Covid-19 response.
Both these factors placed Ms McAfee at greater risk from the virus, and she spent 26 days in intensive care during which time her family was warned she was not expected to survive.
The Belfast Trust has now apologised to 64-year-old Ms McAfee and her family after an investigation found she should not have been allocated to an identified high-risk Covid-19 area, and also that written confirmation from her GP to say she was fit to work had not been sought.
The trust has also said it has reviewed the safety of all nurses who have come out of retirement to help during the pandemic as a result of the investigation.
Ms McAfee's family was left devastated after they discovered Clifton Nursing Home had failed to meet basic infection control practices for over a year before she began working there.
They met with Health Minister Robin Swann and chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle to demand answers over the handling of her case, but were unhappy with the responses they received to a series of questions put to officials.
They subsequently met with the Belfast Trust on Wednesday Speaking afterwards, Ms McAfee said: "It has really hurt and it has really made me angry that my whole safety was compromised throughout the whole process.
"I assume because this was something new they were thrown in themselves at the deep end and they were rushing to get staff placed.
"I think because of that there wasn't time to get all aspects of what this entailed and I think now, after what's happened with myself and bringing this to their attention, that they have learnt lessons from this.
"I wouldn't want anyone to go through what I've been through. I'm still having the effects of it now, it's taken a while to recover, there's psychological side-effects, not just for me but for my family as well, and that does take a lot of time to come to terms with."
Runwood Homes, the scandal-hit company that owns Clifton Nursing Home, had been repeatedly warned to raise standards at the facility - in particular over infection control procedures.
On March 3 the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) gave it a third and final warning to address infection control failings after first raising concerns in April last year.
Ms McAfee began working at the home on May 8 and was diagnosed with the virus on May 15.
Her condition quickly deteriorated and she was rushed to hospital, before being moved to intensive care in the Mater Hospital.
The Belfast Trust said: "Belfast Trust apologises sincerely to Ms McAfee. We fully understand and appreciate how difficult this situation has been for Ms McAfee and her family.
"We met with Ms McAfee today to apologise in person and assured her that lessons have been learned as a result of her experience. We acknowledge a risk assessment should have been completed for Ms McAfee to determine her deployment, unfortunately this was not the case.
"As a consequence, all applicants from the appeal who had started employment or assessed as 'job ready' to start employment were reviewed as a matter of priority.
"We are deeply grateful to Ms McAfee and we wish her well in her recovery. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our colleagues who throughout the pandemic have worked in the most challenging of circumstances. We are indebted to them."
Serious questions have been asked over why officials did not act sooner to ensure the safety of residents given the fact the home had failed to meet basic standards for more than a year.
Concerns about the management of Clifton Nursing Home during the pandemic became so severe that, in an unprecedented move, officials stepped in to remove all residents for their own safety in May. However, the relocation of residents did not happen after a care provider took over the management of the home on a temporary basis.
It came after the home repeatedly failed to adequately address concerns over infection control processes.
Runwood Homes has come under fire numerous times in recent years as a result of the management of a number of its homes, including Dunmurry Manor, now renamed Oak Tree Manor; Kintullagh Care Home in Ballymena, and Ashbrooke Care Home in Enniskillen, where conditions were so dangerous that regulators closed the home with immediate effect following an inspection.
The company reopened the home in January last year under a different name, Meadow View.