Belfast Telegraph

Dunmurry care home horror: Families 'may sue for corporate manslaughter'

Anne Berry, Julie Scott and Bridie Shortt holding pictures of their mother Annie, who was a resident at Dunmurry Manor
Anne Berry, Julie Scott and Bridie Shortt holding pictures of their mother Annie, who was a resident at Dunmurry Manor
Dunmurry Manor

By Lisa Smyth

Families of Dunmurry Manor residents have said they may take a case of corporate manslaughter after an official probe unveiled horrific conditions suffered by people living at the nursing home.

The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland lifted the lid on a catalogue of abuse and neglect, including starvation and sex assaults.

Gordon Sanders, the owner of Runwood Homes, the company that owns Dunmurry Manor and a number of care homes across the UK including Ashbrooke in Enniskillen - which was closed last year amid concerns for residents' safety - has apologised for failing to deliver high standards and the distress this has caused residents and their families.

He said: "I want to assure residents and their families that we have learned from our mistakes and will ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Ultimately, I cannot put the clock back - but I can make sure there are positive changes for the future."

However, Julieann McNally, from west Belfast, rejected the apology made by Mr Sanders as "too little, too late".

Her grandmother, Annie McCourt, was 89-years-old when she was admitted to Dunmurry Manor in January 2016. She had dementia and had been assessed as being unable to live alone.

Ms McNally said families of some residents are looking into the possibility of taking a corporate manslaughter case against Runwood Homes. And she revealed the coroner is currently considering whether to hold an inquest into the death of her grandmother.

She also hit out at the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), Northern Ireland's health watchdog, which was heavily criticised by commissioner Eddie Lynch.

Ms McNally said: "Concerns for us started about March because we could see she was missing meals. She was telling us she was missing meals and we would see it for ourselves.

"There would be occasions where staff would just go past her and not give her any food.

"When she went in to Dunmurry she was still able to go out shopping with us, she was still mobile, but things started to change by about March and her condition deteriorated quite quickly.

"It became apparent that she wasn't being looked after with regards to her personal care and we would have to go over to do it ourselves. Her personal hygiene started to slip and there were times where we would go over on an October evening and she would be sitting without a blanket in her nightclothes next to an open window.

"We raised our concerns with the manager at the time and he apologised and gave assurances, but nothing ever happened.

"Any time we complained about her personal care we were told it was because she didn't like a member of staff or she didn't like getting washed. It was one excuse after another."

Ms McNally said the family was contacted by staff at Dunmurry Manor on the afternoon of June 19 as her grandmother was unwell and had been found sitting on the floor.

She said they received the phone call at 3.30pm and arrived at the home two hours later.

"The door to her room was closed so we opened it and walked in and she was sat in a high-back chair with her head rolled back," continued Ms McNally. "Her speech was slurred and there was vomit down her face. We called an ambulance and she was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where she was diagnosed with pneumonia and her kidneys were also failing. She never went back to Dunmurry. Once she was fit to be discharged from hospital we cared for her ourselves at home until she died on November 13."

Ms McNally said they only discovered their grandmother had fallen at least 12 hours before they were told when they pressed the care home and South Eastern Trust for answers.

She continued: "We saw so many examples of abuse while our grandmother was in Dunmurry Manor, residents being manhandled, residents stripping, we would have to get them out of the corridor, get them dressed and give them a cup of tea to get them settled.

"There were residents not getting their food because no-one was there to help feed them.

"It was horrific, which is why I don't accept the apology from Runwood, while the statement from the RQIA wouldn't even be fit to line a dog's bed. I raised my concerns so many times and nothing was ever done."

She added: "So many people have suffered and it is time that everyone responsible is held accountable."

In a statement, the PSNI said it had received three reports between 2015 and 2016 relating to the welfare of residents that were investigated by its public protection branch.

"In July 2015, a report was made to police of an assault on a male resident. However, following police enquiries, no statement of complaint was made by the resident's next of kin," it said.

"Police received a report in September 2016 regarding concerns about the behaviour of a member of staff. Following an investigation by the South Eastern Trust, no criminal offences were disclosed.

"A further report of offences against a vulnerable person was made to police in November 2016. Following a police investigation, the PPS directed no prosecution in May 2018."

While the above incidents relate to former allegations concerning staff, it is understood that between June 2015 and April 2016 there were three further reports made to police alleging physical and sexual assaults by residents.

The PSNI said there is "currently no ongoi ng police investigation into matters at the care home".

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