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Nurse at Derry home hit by abuse scandal faces investigation

Scandal: Ralph’s Close care home
Scandal: Ralph’s Close care home

By Lisa Smyth

A nurse who worked at a care home at the centre of an abuse scandal is facing a litany of allegations that she failed to ensure the safety of her patients.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practise hearing is examining the work of Elizabeth Pauline Tierney when she was employed as home manager at Mourne House and later at Ralph's Close residential care home in Londonderry.

In February 2014 the Western Trust apologised to the families of 11 vulnerable adults after an investigation confirmed allegations of abuse at Ralph's Close.

Police launched their own separate probe in response to the allegations made by whistleblowers that men and women with severe learning disabilities were being physically and verbally abused in a case that was described as "disturbing" by the then Health Minister Edwin Poots.

Ms Tierney faces a series of charges in relation to nine different care home residents, as well as allegations of failing to ensure the proper supervision, training and appraisal of staff between September 2010 and October 2011.

It has been claimed she failed to properly investigate when another resident was found with bruises on their chest and wrists or carry out a stock check when it was discovered they had missed a dose of antidepressant medication.

It has also been claimed that when another resident suffered a seizure, Ms Tierney did not ensure an adequate investigation was undertaken or that their care plan was updated, or that they were closely monitored.

In further separate charges, Ms Tierney is accused of not reporting an allegation that a nurse had punched a resident.

It has been further claimed that she failed to properly manage the response to a resident ripping and removing clothing on separate occasions over a period of almost one year.

She is also alleged to have failed to act when a resident was found with bruising and scratches on three separate occasions.

It is claimed that she did not ensure a resident was referred to a speech and language therapist between November 2010 and October 2011 or make sure there was a care plan in place that included the fact the person required a puréed diet.

When the same person suffered a fall, Ms Tierney is charged with not interviewing witnesses, confirming the extent of their injuries, informing their family of what had happened or referring the matter to safeguarding.

She is also accused of failing to follow proper protocol after the same resident assaulted a member of staff.

And the NMC is examining whether she reacted appropriately after a series of incidents involving a different resident, including one in August 2011 when he punched himself in the face and another incident in March 2011 when he was injured.

She is further accused of not investigating properly or informing the family when a resident tried to escape on a number of occasions, or putting in place a proper management plan after they swallowed a bed wipe in September and October 2011.

The case against Ms Tierney is the latest fitness to practise hearing relating to a former employee of Ralph's Close.

In November the Belfast Telegraph reported that a former manager of the home, Michael Battersby, had been struck off the nursing register.

According to the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), Mr Battersby was the registered manager of the facility between November 2011 and early September 2012.

The allegations against Mr Battersby happened between October 2011 and September 5, 2012.

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