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Northern Ireland care homes watchdog chief defends performance in pandemic

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Confident: Dermot Parsons

Confident: Dermot Parsons

Confident: Dermot Parsons

The interim chief executive of the RQIA - the watchdog body which regulates Northern Ireland's care homes - on Friday night defended his organisation's performance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

By last Friday, 269 people in Northern Ireland's care homes had died from causes related to Covid-19 - almost half the total for Northern Ireland.

Speaking to the BBC, RQIA chief Dermot Parsons said he thought his organisation had helped save lives.

Mr Parsons revealed that the RQIA had carried out just 11 physical inspections of care homes during the Covid-19 crisis, as well as what he called "other types" of inspections in three further homes.

In April 2019, the RQIA carried out 68 inspections.

"The focus has been on providing detailed guidance and carrying out careful assessments with trusts and with other partner bodies on the preparedness of homes and seeing what support they required to assist them to care for people who could get infected with coronavirus," he said.

Asked for his views on the low level of inspections during the crisis, Mr Parsons said "I feel we have done the right thing.

"We have followed the directions from the Chief Medical Officer to minimise footfall in care homes, and we have made sure that the care homes were as prepared as possible to deal the effects of this appalling pandemic.

"I'm confident that by doing so, and helping them negotiate their way through the complex guidance that there is in the sector at the moment, that we have contributed to saving lives by tackling the biggest issue that faces the care homes at this time."

The interim chief executive said that complaints from residents' relatives had fallen away during the pandemic - because they were not allowed into the homes.

Mr Parsons said he was currently exploring with the Department of Health how the RQIA could "restart inspection safely".

Belfast Telegraph