Regulator facing legal challenge for allowing scandal-hit Northern Ireland care home to reopen
Northern Ireland's health watchdog is at the centre of High Court action over its decision to register a facility owned by a disgraced care home firm.
Runwood Homes is reopening Ashbrooke Care Home in Enniskillen under a new name, 17 months after the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) closed it as it posed a serious risk to life.
The regulator took the unprecedented step of shutting the home with immediate effect in August 2017 because conditions there were considered so dangerous.
However, it emerged earlier this month that Runwood Homes was taking steps to reopen it under the name Meadow View Care Home, and it has now been approved by the RQIA.
By law, all care homes must be registered with the RQIA before they can admit residents.
According to the RQIA website, the home is allowed to provide residential care to elderly people and people with dementia, while the registered manager is a former manager of Ashbrooke Home.
It comes as the PSNI continues its investigations into allegations of institutional abuse and neglect at another Runwood Homes facility, Dunmurry Manor.
While there is no enforcement action currently under way against any Runwood Homes facility here, the company has continually failed to meet basic standards at a number of its premises.
Julieann McNally, whose grandmother spent time at Dunmurry Manor, last night revealed she had launched legal proceedings against the RQIA.
She said: "It is unbelievable that the RQIA has made this decision.
"Runwood Homes still refuses to accept the criticisms made by the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland.
"As long as they continue to reject his findings, the public cannot have any confidence that they have addressed the problems that put so many people at risk."
Ms McNally said the RQIA has been served with a pre-action protocol informing it of intention of a judicial review of the decision to register Meadow View.
The RQIA said the organisation's priority is the safety and quality of care that will be delivered to everyone who will be living there.
It said the RQIA carries out a range of checks, examining areas such as the fitness of those responsible for the management of the home, references and AccessNI vetting.
It continued: "RQIA will only issue a registration certificate when the provider and the manager have satisfied all the checks we have put in place.
"Following a new registration, RQIA may also provide additional support as the home settles with a new staff team and new residents, to help ensure that care is safe and of the high quality that the residents expect and deserve.
"RQIA is proud of the work we do to protect, promote and ensure the safety and quality of care of the people who live in and use the services we register and inspect.
"We can only do this in partnership with the providers, managers and staff in these services, and our colleagues in health and social care trusts."
Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan said it was imperative that the health trusts and the RQIA ensure the safety of anyone who moves to Meadow View.
The Western Health Trust last night said it has no contract in place with Runwood Homes to provide services at Meadow View.
However, Mr Sheehan said he has been told otherwise by officials, who said the trust has commissioned services at the facility.
He continued: "I am very concerned this nursing home is opening under another name but continues under the management of Runwood Homes.
"Given their track record in the home and in other residential homes such as Dunmurry Manor, there needs to be a close eye kept on how Runwood Homes are being managed."
Mr Sheehan added: "I think it's important to say that the trusts and RQIA are responsible for the oversight and patient safety, and they should also be accountable for how people are treated in those homes."