Dunmurry care home scandal simply inexcusable
If staff at Dunmurry Manor care home had set out to deliberately maltreat the elderly and vulnerable people there, the effect could scarcely have been worse than what those people endured.
In what was one of the most damning reports into any care facility in Northern Ireland, the NI Commissioner for Older People found that residents suffered starvation, sexual abuse and appalling neglect.
Anyone reading the case histories contained in this newspaper today will be astounded that such conditions could prevail in any care facility in this day and age.
Some of the findings beggar belief. The commissioner found evidence of resident on resident sexual abuse, one person losing 10 stone in a five-month period and another with pressure sores so deep that the bone was exposed.
But what is most disturbing of all is that such conduct and lack of care was able to continue even though it was evident to very many people. Relatives of residents said they complained but nothing was done. Countless agency staff refused to work more than one day at the home because they felt conditions were so dangerous.
The commissioner, Eddie Lynch, was withering in his condemnation, pointing out as one example the fact that the home received £2m from a health trust yet was unable or unwilling to find an extra £10 in the budget to give elderly residents continence pads.
Residents were effectively stripped of their rights and their dignity, and that is a huge black mark against the healthcare system in Northern Ireland.
The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), a watchdog body, deemed conditions at the home were safe. No concerns seem to have been raised either by the Department of Health or the health trusts who placed residents in the home.
It appears that the pleas of the families appalled at the treatment of their loved one went unheeded for far too long. Now some are threatening to take a case of corporate manslaughter against the home.
Mr Lynch made 59 recommendations on the back of his investigation, but what will happen to them in the absence of any devolved administration here? Will they join all the other reports gathering dust on shelves at Stormont?
The managing director of the company which runs the home and 10 others here has resigned but it really is too little too late. What happened at that home is inexcusable.