Belfast Telegraph

Boss of scandal-hit Northern Ireland care home calls damning report highlighting abuse of residents 'insensitive'

By Lisa Smyth

A report highlighting abuse and neglect suffered by residents of a Belfast care home was insensitive, according to the boss of the facility.

The chief operating officer of Runwood Homes launched an astonishing attack on the findings of an investigation into conditions at Dunmurry Manor.

Gavin O'Hare Connolly said there were "fundamental issues" within the official report by the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland.

Speaking to industry magazine Care Home Professional, Mr O'Hare Connolly was critical of the "insensitive" tone of the report and highlighted the "huge distress" it had caused staff at the home.

"I do feel the report is based on a minority of people and I don't feel that the report sets context in terms of how that looks," he said.

"Nonetheless, I accept the findings that we must improve, as every care home across the country must improve."

His comments attracted anger from relatives of former residents and the author of the damning Home Truths report.

Eddie Lynch, the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland (COPNI), was assisted in his 16-month investigation by three experts in nursing, safeguarding, human rights and regulation and inspection.

Interviews were conducted with 119 witnesses.

The subsequent report revealed a series of shocking findings, including the fact that in March 2017 health trusts suggested "practices in Dunmurry Manor, such as poor-quality continence pads, constituted institutional abuse".

It also revealed that, in October 2016, "a HSC trust official suggest(ed) that Dunmurry Manor be referred to the PSNI for institutional abuse".

A timeline in the report from July 2014 to the end of January last year highlighted numerous examples of abuse and neglect, unexplained injuries, sexual incidents, residents not getting medication and concerns raised by staff, relatives and trust officials.

Mr O'Hare Connolly, a former nurse, took up the role of chief operating officer at Runwood Homes last year.

At the time the COPNI report was published, the company issued a statement apologising for the distress caused to residents and their relatives.

It said: "The board of directors acknowledges and takes full responsibility for these failures and the lack of oversight that could have ensured they did not happen.

"The managing director, Logan Logeswaran, has in fact resigned his position from Runwood Homes Group UK as of yesterday."

However, the firm subsequently denied Mr Logeswaran's resignation was linked to the failings at Dunmurry Manor and said he left in good standing.

Reacting to the most recent comments made by Mr O'Hare Connolly, Mr Lynch said: "It is surprising to read the comments made, given that Runwood Homes previously publicly admitted that there were extensive failings of care and treatment of residents in Dunmurry Manor and has taken full responsibility for them.

"The suggestion that the findings of the report were based on a minority of people is entirely incorrect.

"As stated previously, all the findings within the Home Truths report were based on extensive evidence uncovered during the course of my investigation and this clearly demonstrated many systemic failings that would unfortunately have affected the residents over a significant period of time.

"My office is continuing to work with the PSNI with regards to their ongoing criminal investigation into the serious systemic failings of care at Dunmurry Manor.

"I intend to discuss this matter directly with Runwood Homes after convening with the report's panel of experts to discuss the detail of the relevant authorities' responses to Home Truths."

Julieann McNally, whose late grandmother was a resident at Dunmurry Manor, said she was disgusted but not surprised by the comments made by Mr O'Hare Connolly.

"The attitude taken by Runwood Homes throughout this entire ordeal has been dismissive at the very least," she said.

Ms McNally also stressed she could not understand how Mr O'Hare Connolly could see the COPNI report as insensitive.

"All it did was shine a light on what was going on at Dunmurry Manor for years," she added.

"If Mr O'Hare Connolly cannot accept the findings of the report in full, then what faith can the families have that Runwood Homes are addressing the failings highlighted by Mr Lynch and what faith can we have that residents are safe?"

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