Slieve Dhu nursing home fined £12,000 for safety breach which led to pensioner's death
A Co Down nursing home that admitted a health and safety breach which led to an 82-year-old resident's death was fined £12,000 yesterday.
Imposing the fine on Slieve Dhu Ltd at Downpatrick Crown Court, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said it was clear "the breach led directly to the consequences" of Margaret Sumner's fall and to "some of the mortal injuries she sustained".
"All staff in the home ought to have been fully aware of the very specific care plan drawn up for Mrs Sumner," the judge said.
"There can be no doubt that on this occasion, these procedures were not followed by the staff member in whose care she was at the relevant time."
At the arraignment last September, company director Micheal Rodgers appeared on behalf of Slieve Dhu Nursing Home, which manages a nursing home on the Bryansford Road in Newcastle, entering a guilty plea to failing to ensure the health and safety of a non-employee on June 22, 2016.
Opening the Crown case yesterday, prosecuting counsel Laura Ievers said Mrs Sumner, who had been a resident since 2011, had been released from hospital the day before the incident.
There was a plan in place that the "vulnerable and frail" pensioner had to have a member of staff with her when she went to the toilet, with either someone in the cubicle with her or staying close by, a discreet distance away.
On June 22, however, Mrs Sumner was at the toilet but had been left alone when staff "heard a thump" and when they rushed to see what had happened, she saw "she had hit her head very badly and had a head wound", said the lawyer. Taken to hospital, Mrs Sumner passed away four weeks after the fall after suffering a bleed to her brain.
The court heard she was also suffering from pneumonia.
Defence QC Frank O'Donoghue told the court that since the passing of Mrs Sumner, there had been a review of procedures with steps put in place to ensure it was unlikely to happen again.
Outlining how the company "fully co-operated" with the police and Regulation & Quality Improvement watchdog, he described how staff had been "verbally told" about the pensioner's needs, but now there was a system in place that "tightened things up".
Handing down the fine, Judge Miller said: "It is clear that procedures regarding toileting ... required staff to always be in attendance.
"It follows that all staff in the home ought to have been fully aware of the very specific care plan drawn up for Mrs Sumner.
"There can be no doubt that on this occasion these procedures were not followed by the staff member in whose care she was at the relevant time."
Micheal Rodgers said Mrs Sumner "was a valued and popular resident at Slieve Dhu".
He said: "We accept the court's findings in this case and as an employer we take responsibility for the failings of our staff member who no longer works at the nursing home.
"The management of Slieve Dhu takes extremely seriously any incident, no matter how rare, where our high standards are not met.
"We deeply regret the distress caused to Mrs Sumner's family and would again express our deepest condolences, particularly at this sensitive time."