Northern Ireland's health watchdog RQIA has said that 'very major refurbishments' are needed at a Derry care home before elderly residents are allowed to return.
Greenhaw Lodge is a 43-bed privately owned care home located in the city side of Derry which specialises in providing care to those with dementia and five places for persons with alcohol dependence.
Last month RQIA advised that thirty-nine residents would have to be relocated after dangerous bacteria legionella was discovered in the home.
As of last Friday, October 23, the Trust had moved 18 residents to alternative accommodation to meet their individual care needs.
It is planned that the remaining residents will be relocated to other suitable care homes by the end this month.
At October’s Western Trust board meeting it emerged that a ‘potential risk’ was highlighted in February but it took until September for health watchdog RQIA to identify dangerous bacteria Legionella.
RQIA made it clear that responsibility for building maintenance, including the water supply, lies with Larchwood.
The health watchdog says it was March 2020 when it was made aware of a leak within Greenhaw’s plumbing system, affecting the hot water temperature and pressure to a number of bedrooms and sanitary accommodation in the home.
An RQIA spokesperson said: “We followed this up with the management of the home who provided the necessary assurances that the plumbing system was functional and that critically that temperature controls were in place.
“Based on the robust assurances given to RQIA in March, there would have been no basis for an earlier visit and during the first wave of Covid 19 this would not have been appropriate.
“To be clear - prior to our visit in September there were no concerns raised about the possibility of legionella or other water borne infections at this home.
“RQIA has acted in a prompt and timely way to the new risks identified.”
He added: “The direction to temporarily move residents from this home is as a result of the very major refurbishments required at the home - including the provision of sufficient handwashing facilities and reinstating water supplies to bedrooms - which would make it very difficult to provide the necessary standard of care.
“This should not be specifically linked to the risk of legionella, as temporary control measures have been put in place, and we have no evidence that residents have come to harm as a result of legionella or other water borne infections.”
In June 2018 the RQIA uncovered a series of failures regarding basic hygiene levels with faeces discovered on a shower room floor and a ‘stained’ toilet.
Management of the home was summoned to an urgent meeting with the RQIA after the visit, but no enforcement action was taken.
Inspections in previous years noted required improvements around the management of medicines.
A further inspection in June last year highlighted concerns about the environment in the home.
Margaret Toland’s husband, Joe, who had Alzheimer’s was a resident in Greenhaw for over three years.
Sadly, Joe passed away last year.
Mrs Toland has raised concerns about Greenhaw externally and internally for many years.
The Derry woman has called on Larchwood Care to ‘consider selling the home if they are not committed to providing safe consistent care’.
“When my husband Joe was in Greenhaw the staff were amazing and very dedicated. The care they gave him was outstanding. When he was dying in 2019 the staff were always there to offer support and comfort. I can never thank them enough. They are all very special people.
“Sadly their employer does not appear to appreciate them. They are not paid enough wages and too many of them leave to go and work for better pay in retail.
“I constantly raised concerns about the hygiene at the care home and the decor. At times it was a disgrace.
“The RQIA inspectors have agreed with me. I am horrified that this has happened again in 2020 during a pandemic.”
Addressing the specific concerns around water supply, she added: “The water was always an issue. The drinking water quality was always poor. Everyone knew this for years.
“The staff and residents deserve so much better than what they get at Greenhaw. Why are the Western Trust not preventing this. Surely all these failings are causing harm.
“This would never happen in a children's home. Why does it appear to be acceptable in an older people's home?”
Meanwhile, Julieann McNally of Care Home Advice & Support NI (CHASNI) has called on the RQIA and Western Trust to finally say ‘enough is enough’ at Greenhaw nursing home.
She said the failings in 2018 were ‘absolutely shocking’ and they should never have been allowed to be repeated.
“Why are the Western Trust paying for care that is clearly below standard according to RQIA reports since 2018. It is a disgrace that a care home has had enforcement action taken twice in 2020, a year of a pandemic.
“We would also call on the Western Trust to carry out a Serious Adverse Incident investigation into every death this year at Greenhaw.”
In response to those comments, a spokesperson for Larchwood Care said: “Our team at Greenhaw Lodge is continuing to support our residents and their families during this challenging period.
“We will continue to keep families updated on any developments and wish to thank them for their patience and support.”
The Derry News asked the Western Trust whether it could provide assurances that residents have been transferred to homes which aren’t experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks.
Bob Brown, Director of Primary Care and Older People’s Services at the Western Trust said all necessary risk assessments and monitoring checks have been completed for each resident.
“The well-being and safety of the residents is our priority and we will continue to monitor the situation closely in the days ahead to ensure the transition is efficiently and sensitively completed.
“The Trust continues to work in partnership with the Care Home Provider Larchwood, the RQIA, the Health and Social Care Board, the Public Health Agency and other HSC Trusts.”
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