Care home residents deserve total dignity
It seems self-evident that the purpose of inspections by regulatory bodies or official inquiries is to determine what has gone wrong in certain instances - as well as defining good practice where found - and make recommendations to be implemented.
Yet in the care home sector in Northern Ireland, it appears that is not what happens in all instances. An inquiry into concerns about a Carrickfergus care home between 2005 and 2013 came up with 12 recommendations designed to drive up standards across the board.
Yet recommendations were not implemented, and the result was the scathing report earlier this year into care practices at Dunmurry Manor care home.
Eddie Lynch, the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, made it clear that had the earlier recommendations been implemented, many of the problems at Dunmurry Manor could have been avoided.
But now it has been learned that another home operated by the company that owns Dunmurry Manor, Runwood Homes, has run foul of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority. During a visit to the Rose Court nursing home last December, the RQIA found that incontinent patients were using communal net underwear.
The management was told to stop that practice, but it was found to be still continuing in April. While the inspection found positive aspects to the care provided, it beggars belief that the management simply ignored the RQIA demand.
Inspectors also noticed that staff, bizarrely, were crushing biscuits into cups of tea meant for clients who had difficulty swallowing.
News of these new failings come just a day after we reported that the Department of Health had commissioned an independent review into failings at Dunmurry Manor.
Quite why we need another report, no doubt at considerable expense and taking valuable time, is not clear. What is more evident is that its terms of reference should be widened to include all of Runwood Homes' estate in the province.
Elderly people going into care or nursing homes often do so with some trepidation. They fear loss of independence and worry about their personal dignity. Using communal underwear is an undeniable loss of dignity and a practice with no sound rationale.
We owe it to those entering care and nursing homes, often at great personal expense, to ensure they are treated properly.