The Department of Health was slow to respond to concerns raised about the impact of Covid-19 in care homes in Northern Ireland, it has been claimed.
The Commissioner for Older People has also said he believes officials prioritised hospitals over care homes ahead of the coronavirus pandemic hitting the region.
Eddie Lynch appeared at the Stormont health committee yesterday, where he described efforts to secure support for care homes from officials as an "uphill battle".
He also said the delay in action resulted in the virus taking hold in care homes.
"In terms of actions of the department, I have to be honest and say much of the advice myself and my team gave wasn't taken on board," he said.
Mr Lynch also expressed frustration at the length of time private care home providers are given to address failings when they fail to meet basic safety standards.
"I think one of the most disturbing aspects of my investigation was, for me, the number of chances the care home had to fix what were quite serious failures of care," he said.
"It isn't enough to have months and months go by before management fix homes."
Mr Lynch is the author of the Home Truths report, which was released in June 2018 and detailed the devastating findings of his investigation into the facility formerly known as Dunmurry Manor.
His probe uncovered a litany of harrowing neglect and abuse of residents at the home, which has since been renamed Oak Tree Manor and is owned by Runwood Homes.
The firm also owns Clifton Nursing Home in north Belfast, where nine residents have died with Covid-19.
Authorities have come under fire after it emerged that the home repeatedly failed to meet basic infection control regulations for more than a year in the run-up to the pandemic.
Referring to the problems experienced at Clifton Nursing Home, Mr Lynch said: "What happened in Dunmurry Manor, unfortunately some of the stories that are coming out of Clifton Nursing Home in the past couple of weeks have been depressingly similar for myself and my team. A lot of the issues were uncovered in Dunmurry Manor."
Mr Lynch was asked to give his assessment on the preparations made by the Department of Health and the support offered to care homes in advance of the pandemic.
He told the committee it was clear from the experience of other countries that care homes would be particularly vulnerable to the virus.
"We knew that people in care homes were very much at risk if the virus got in there," he explained.
He said officials were "clearly slow in moving to protect" care homes and this "has led to an increase in infection".
"There is not an inevitability about victims in care homes by coronavirus, but we have to learn the lessons of what has happened in previous weeks and months," he added.
Mr Lynch was challenged over his claims that officials prioritised hospitals over care homes ahead of the pandemic by the Health Minister's UUP colleague Alan Chambers.
The North Down MLA put it to Mr Lynch that clearing out hospital wards was a way of ensuring there would be adequate capacity in the event of a spike in virus patients.
Mr Chambers said as elderly people would be more likely to require hospital treatment if they fell ill with Covid-19, they would be the group of people who would benefit most from the measure.
Mr Lynch said: "It was quite right for the authorities to make sure that our health system was geared up as much as possible, and indeed the messages were going out to society about the steps that we could take to ease that pressure on the system.
"But nevertheless, I don't believe it was one or the other, I think we have to view our social care setting as part of the overall health system as well, so whilst it was quite right to get our health in acute settings as best prepared as possible, it was also equally clear of the real threat to older people in care home settings, so I think it wasn't one or the other.
"I think it was clearly outlined to the department that this was very vulnerable, the stats showed it and there needed to be more protection put in place at an earlier stage."