Fresh criticism for Runwood as another Northern Ireland care home fails to meet standards
Another care home owned by disgraced firm Runwood Homes has failed to meet basic standards, it can be revealed.
Northern Ireland's health watchdog uncovered a series of problems at Kintullagh Care Home in Ballymena during a two-day unannounced inspection in October last year.
These included staff shortages and the way this was managed, and failings relating to infection control and fire safety measures.
The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) was so concerned by the findings of the inspection that it summoned Runwood Homes - the company at the centre of the Dunmurry Manor care home scandal - to attend a 'serious concerns' meeting.
The home's manager, Julie-Ann Jamieson, and Gavin O'Hare-Connolly, Runwood Homes' Chief Operating Officer, were present at the meeting, according to the RQIA.
The inspection of Kintullagh Care Home happened five weeks after a nursing unit for the elderly and terminally ill at another Ballymena care home owned by Runwood Homes was forced to shut amid claims staff walked out in protest at conditions there. Families of people living at Rose Court were given two weeks to find alternative accommodation for their loved ones as a result.
Alliance Party health spokeswoman Paula Bradshaw said she has written to the RQIA to raise concerns at the regulation of care homes in Northern Ireland.
"We are now at the stage where public confidence in homes run by Runwood has been eroded completely," she said. "I have written to RQIA and remain very concerned that the current law and regulations do not suffice, putting too much responsibility for ensuring homes meet regulations on private companies themselves rather than on democratically accountable regulators.
"This is of course yet another issue where the DUP and Sinn Fein need to stop shirking their responsibility and get on with doing a deal which enables local legislators to do their jobs in the public interest."
The inspector arrived at Kintullagh Care Home at 9.30am on October 8 and discovered there were not enough staff working at the time. Three members of staff scheduled to work a 12-hour shift had called in sick.
The RQIA report said the home is managed over three units and one of them was "particularly affected" as it was short of two care staff until 2pm.
It added: "Observations within this unit evidenced that the patients' needs were not fully met by the number of staff on duty."
As a result of the staff shortage, the morning medication round had not been completed at 11.50am and one resident had missed the morning activity because their medicines were late.
The mid-morning snack was not served as staff were too busy delivering care to serve the tea.
Staff told the inspector they had not been offered support from other units.
In another unit, also short-staffed, they were using someone who was only working their second shift to make up numbers.
The inspector was told by staff that when there were not enough people working "you had to sort it yourself", while it emerged the designated nurse in charge of the home did not address staffing issues when the manager was not present.
"In addition, patients and relatives spoken with all raised concerns with the inspector and the lay assessor regarding staffing levels and the impact on care delivery and the patient experience," the report said.
A check of the rota between September 2 and October 13 also showed there was no evidence of cover having been obtained when staff did not turn up for work.
Concerns emerged about how management monitored whether staff were registered with relevant professional bodies.
The inspector also discovered there was no evidence that the manager had followed proper procedures relating to residents' falls to reduce the risk of future falls, as well as failures relating to the management of wounds and complaints about the care of residents. After watching and speaking to staff, the inspector also established that infection control measures were not being followed. She recommended that the underside of shower chairs and commodes be cleaned after each use, that equipment such as wheelchairs and bedside tables should not be stored in toilets, and toilet brushes should be allowed to air dry.
According to the RQIA, Runwood Homes gave assurances during the serious concerns meeting that all issues would be addressed. In total, the RQIA issued the home with 12 areas for improvement.
Details of the inspection of Kintullagh Care Home have emerged as Runwood Homes prepares to reopen Ashbrooke Care Home in Enniskillen - 18 months after it was shut by the RQIA amid serious concerns for the safety of its residents. The company is planning to open the facility under the new name of Meadow View this month.
Runwood Homes did not respond to a request for a comment.