Owen Mor nursing home on the Culmore Road
Owen Mor care centre has come under further scrutiny after senior management again refused to come before local councillors to answer their concerns.
At a meeting of Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Health and Community Committee, Derry councillors said it is adding to the “reputational damage” of the care home.
In November 2019, the centre reopened to new admissions following a string of unsatisfactory inspections dating back to May.
The privately owned centre based on the Culmore Road is an 81-bed facility which cares for people with dementia, learning disabilities and mental disorders.
It was under enforcement after the health regulator, RQIA, took court action in August.
An investigation by health watchdog RQIA in May of last year identified “serious concerns” in relation to the quality of management and governance arrangements in the home, health and welfare of patients, in particular the record keeping, and the competency and capability of registered nursing staff.
RQIA obtained a court order in August to block new admissions after it emerged the Western Trust was still referring patients to the home.
During that time a respite unit for adults with learning disabilities, also based at Owen Mor, remained closed because it was registered as a single nursing home. That adversely affected both users and their families.
Owen Mor had been invited to attend a council meeting in January to address local councillors concerns but said it turned that down “owing to Owen Mor work commitments”. Representatives were instead invited to the care centre to discuss matters.
The reason provided was described as “unsettling” by councillors who then extended another invitation to the registered accountable person at the home, Dr Una McDonald, at a date of her choosing.
At Thursday’s meeting, SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney asked for an update. A council official informed him that a response was provided on February 11 noting councillors’ views and comments, and the care centre made clear it would “not be in a position to accept any invitation in the near future.”
But councillors were again given the option to meet at Owen Mor.
In response, Cllr Tierney said: “It appears that Owen Mor is again refusing point blank to come before council to address concerns that have been ongoing for months.”
He added that the meeting should not happen behind closed doors but in a public forum and believed another letter would be a “waste of time”.
Independent Cllr Gary Donnelly said Owen’s Mor’s refusal to attend has inflicted further “reputational damage” on the organisation as it should be eager to “defend its position”.
“It’s obvious they’re not going to come, asking a dozen councillors to come to a care home, I don’t think that’s appropriate. That’s leading to more concerns.”
Alderman Maurice Devenney of the DUP said it was “disappointing” that senior management at the home haven’t taken up the invitation. If they don’t answer concerns, “how are we going to know it won’t happen again?” he asked.
Addressing the meeting again, Cllr Tierney said it was important to note that some families have had no issues at Owen Mor, and it’s important to keep an open mind, but he questioned why an organisation “receiving public funds won’t come to council”.
Alliance Cllr Rachael Ferguson enquired whether a meeting at Owen Mor could be minuted if that was the only option open to representatives.
“It’s quite evident they don’t see themselves answerable to council,” Independent Cllr Paul Gallagher said. He proposed inviting Commissioner for Older People in NI, Eddie Lynch, before the committee to hear their concerns which in turn “might make Owen Mor take heed”.
That proposal was seconded by Cllr Donnelly and supported by other members and the invitation to Owen Mor was left on the table.
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