Belfast Telegraph

Death of resident had serious effect on Castlewellan care home staff, court told

By Paul Higgins

The tragic death of a vulnerable care home resident who choked on a piece of orange has had a "profound impact" on the company and staff, a judge has heard.

Downpatrick Crown Court also heard the South Eastern Health Trust continues to have a working partnership with Seeconnell Private Village since Mervyn Patterson (57) died more than four years ago.

At an earlier hearing, Corriewood Private Clinic Ltd, which owns the nursing home on the Clonvaraghan Road in Castlewellan, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of a non-employee on March 20, 2014.

The charge arose, prosecuting counsel Laura Ievers said, as a result of the "tragic and sudden death" of Mr Patterson, who suffered from severe autism and learning difficulties and who choked on a piece of orange.

In early 2014, concerns had been raised about Mr Patterson's ability to eat and swallow. Following an assessment, it was decided that Mr Patterson "should be upright and alert when eating and drinking and that he was to have a soft, mashed, moist texture" diet.

Carers were advised that "fruit should be peeled" and he "should be directly supervised at meal times" but, just after 9pm on March 20, he started to choke.

The staff began CPR and the paramedics arrived quickly, but Mr Patterson passed away. A pathology report revealed he choked on a segment of orange.

An investigation revealed that the teenage support worker who prepared the supper that night "had never read Mr Patterson's care plan" and wasn't aware of his dietary requirements.

A colleague also left Mr Patterson unsupervised for the short period when he began choking.

He told investigators he knew Mr Patterson had issues with food as it was in his care plan but that he believed "an orange would have been a suitable food stuff".

Yesterday, Marie McGrady, the "responsible person" for the care facility, told defence QC Turlough Montague that changes have been implemented to ensure nothing like this happens again, such as further training.

She told Mr Montague that Mr Patterson's death has had a "profound impact" on both the company and staff.

In testimonials submitted to the judge, Mr Montague noted that the Trust "continue to place people with complex learning difficulties" at the facility. Others from consultant psychiatrists and medical professionals spoke of the staff and management being "dedicated to the care and wellbeing of all the residents."

Sentencing will be passed next Thursday.

Belfast Telegraph

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