Northern Ireland

Care worker raised concerns about home last year

Owenvale Court
Image caption An elderly woman died in a fire at Owenvale Court last month

A care worker has told the BBC that she raised concerns about standards at a west Belfast old people's home as far back as July last year.

Owenvale Court is at the centre of an investigation by the care homes regulator, the RQIA.

Last month an elderly woman died following a fire there.

The RQIA said it had identified a range of concerns about the St John of God Association's running of Owenvale Court Care Home.

The regulator has moved to take action against the charity which has been running the home and warned it will be de-registered, following concerns about the standard of care.

The care worker, who has asked to remain anonymous, was employed by the St John of God Association for seven years.

She said the standard of management and care at the home had prompted her to go to her employers and the RQIA.

Helm Housing, which owns Owenvale Court, said the problems should have been "nipped in the bud" much earlier.

Helm's interim chief executive Greg Lomax said: "Knowing that there was a problem which was sort of simmering for some time and which came to a head recently, but not solely because of this sad death.

"With hindsight it would have been better if all four parties had got together 12 months ago and said 'let's nip this in the bud'."

The BBC understands that a contract with a new provider is about to be signed. Helm Housing said that would have no impact on residents.

Vulnerable adults

The concerns identified by the RQIA include safeguarding vulnerable adults and a lack of effective management.

The home on the Springfield Road provides care to 47 elderly patients.

The RQIA said St John of God was co-operating with it and the Belfast Health Trust to find a new provider for the home and "ensuring the ongoing safety, protection and well-being of residents at this service".

The trust said it was investigating vulnerable adult issues identified.

In a statement, it said: "The safety and wellbeing of our clients is Belfast Trust's first priority.

"The trust has been working very closely with St John of God and Owenvale to provide intensive support and guidance during this period of transition.

"We plan to meet all clients and their families in the days ahead."

In a statement, the St John of God Association said it had experienced difficulties in recruiting senior staff for the home.

"Reluctantly we have come to the decision that another provider, larger than our own organisation in Northern Ireland, would be better placed to provide the necessary management," it said.

The association said it wanted to ensure "a smooth and seamless transition to a new provider".

"We are proud to have been involved in the founding of this home and we are confident that under new management it will continue to provide quality care into the future," it added.

Range of concerns

The RQIA detailed a range of concerns at Owenvale Court Residential Care Home.

These included: the quality of care delivery; management of medicines; safeguarding vulnerable adults; risk management; staff levels, competence and training; record keeping; statutory notifications; and management at the home.

This led to RQIA issuing a series of notices of failure to comply with residential care home regulations.

RQIA also placed conditions on the registration of the service, including ceasing new admissions to the home.

In April, as a result of further concerns, RQIA issued a notice to cancel the registration of St John of God Association - the registered provider - in relation to Owenvale Court.

"The safeguarding issues identified by RQIA are currently being investigated by the Belfast Trust under safeguarding vulnerable adult procedures," the statement added.

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