Revelation made in meeting minutes about facility that lost 16 during deadly outbreak a fortnight later
A man was admitted to a struggling care home without being tested for Covid-19 despite long-running concerns over the safety of residents at the facility, it has emerged.
It can be revealed the man developed symptoms and tested positive for the virus within days of moving to Clifton Nursing Home in mid-April 2020.
Within a fortnight, the home was in the grips of a deadly Covid-19 outbreak, which claimed the lives of 15 residents between April 30, 2020, and May 27, 2020.
A further resident who caught the virus during the outbreak subsequently died in August 2020, with Covid mentioned on her death certificate.
It is not known how the outbreak began at the home, which repeatedly failed to meet infection control standards in the run up to the pandemic, but the latest information has caused further trauma for the families of former residents.
Solicitor Kevin Winters from KRW Law, which represents a number of families who lost loved ones during the pandemic, said: “The latest news will only serve to add to the anger and deep frustration felt by the next of kin of residents in Clifton Nursing Home.
“The revelation shouldn’t come as any surprise to a significant number of families who, by now, have come to expect the worst every time there is emerging news about Clifton.
“The information will feed into ongoing legal engagement with the coroner and other agencies.”
The details are contained in minutes of a meeting between an infection control expert from the Belfast Trust and the then registered manager of the north Belfast home.
The meeting on May 1, 2020 took place in the foyer of the home, which has since been renamed City View Court, in order to reduce footfall into the building.
As a result of verbal assurances from the registered manager, the infection prevention control report was positive, with only two actions to be taken.
Notes from the meeting show “there was a good selection of appropriate hand sanitiser and personal protective equipment” at the entrance of the home.
However, the registered manager told the trust infection control expert that “two weeks previously, they were obliged to take a resident from his own home and, although the home manager requested that he be tested for Covid-19, this was not completed”.
The minutes continued: “The patient, a few days after admission to the home, developed Covid symptoms and tested positive.
“Isolation is in place for Covid positive residents. However, there is an issue of non-compliance with required isolation by some residents in the dementia wing.”
The notes also show that the home manager told the trust infection control expert that one resident used a non-invasive breathing machine.
Despite this being an aerosol generating procedure, none of the staff in the home had been fitted for a specialist face mask to reduce the risk of catching Covid-19 if the resident had the infection.
Care and nursing homes were not expected to test residents returning from hospital or people moving into a facility at the beginning of the pandemic.
The Department of Health has produced evidence which states the lack of testing at that stage did not result in care home outbreaks.
However, critics remain convinced it was wrong to discharge people from hospitals into care homes, particularly at a time when there was a lack of personal protective equipment and the virus was known to be dangerous to residents.
Concerns relating to the safety of residents at Clifton Nursing Home reached a peak in May 2020, when it emerged health bosses were planning to remove all residents. The home was only allowed to remain open after an alternative care provider stepped in on a temporary basis to run the facility in place of controversial care home firm Runwood Homes.
A subsequent high-level investigation uncovered a catalogue of devastating failings as Clifton Nursing Home struggled to contain the deadly Covid-19 outbreak.
The Belfast Trust, Northern Ireland’s health watchdog and Runwood Homes, which has since been rebranded Kathryn Homes NI in Northern Ireland, were all criticised by the independent review into the home.
It found alarming delays by officials to recognise and respond to concerns, and also revealed failings by Runwood Homes highlighted by the Commissioner for Older People in 2018 were still happening two years later.
A failure to adhere to infection control policies was a particular area of concern and Runwood Homes was given repeated opportunities to rectify the situation.
Runwood Homes has been contacted for comment.