Ashbrooke Care Home closed over 'serious risk to life'
A nursing home has been forced to close because of care failings described as the worst ever seen by inspectors.
Regulators took the "unprecedented" step after an urgent inspection at Ashbrooke Care Home in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, last Wednesday.
The failings, including dirty facilities and a "strong odour of faeces and urine", posed a serious risk to life, said regulators.
Ashbrooke is operated by Runwood Homes and has 40 residents.
Runwood Homes said staff had not been given the opportunity to address any concerns pointed out by inspectors.
The Regulations and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) said it was liaising with authorities to organise "appropriate alternative care arrangements" for the home's residents.
At a meeting with the Western Trust on Monday night, relatives were told they could be moved to premises in Londonderry.
Families were also told that all residents would be moved from the home by 31 August.
RQIA Chief Executive Olive Macleod said this was the first time it had closed a home in Northern Ireland since its foundation in 2005.
"We inspect all care and residential homes a minimum of twice a year. We find failures and we support the provider to improve on those failures.
"But this was a systematic failure and I believe we took the appropriate action to protect the wellbeing of these patients."
'Substantial weight loss'
Ms Macleod said the home was brought to regulators' attention after information was shared that necessitated an immediate inspection.
"The patient equipment was dirty, the patients looked unkempt, their hair had not been washed, their clothes were dirty and there was a very strong odour of faeces and urine," she said.
"When we checked the records we found there had been substantial weight loss recorded against at least three patients, and in one patient it was 6kg - which is a very large amount of weight for anybody to lose in one week.
"There was no evidence in the records that any actions had been taken in relation to that case failure."
She added that inspectors also spoke to visitors who said the home was short-staffed and that they themselves had helped to assist other patients eat meals.
Ms Macleod said that while the RQIA would normally have invited Runwood Homes to a "serious concerns meeting", the failures were "of such an extent that we believed this was the appropriate action to take".
Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton said the closure would be a "traumatic experience" for residents.
"The focus of everyone should now be on the safety and welfare of the residents so that they can be relocated as soon as possible in a way that minimises the disruption to their lives and those of their families," she said.
'No notification given'
DUP councillor Raymond Farrell said it was a "very concerning time".
"Meetings are ongoing between the home and the trust," he said. "We don't know what the outcome will be but we hope it's one that puts the residents first and they won't be under any undue stress."
In a statement, Runwood Homes said it "was not given any prior notification of the enforcement action" the RQIA intended to take.
"A previous unannounced care inspection of the home by RQIA on 15 May 2017 had found that there was evidence of safe delivery of care and no enforcement action resulted from the findings of that inspection," it said.
"There has not, therefore, been any opportunity for Runwood staff to engage with RQIA to address any concerns that they had with regard to the running of Ashbrooke Care Home.
"Runwood are currently working very closely with the Western Health and Social Care Trust and other stakeholders to ensure that care delivery is provided in a person-centred and safe manner throughout this difficult time for Ashbrooke Care Home.
"Ensuring that residents of Ashbrooke Care Home receive high quality nursing and residential care is of upmost importance to us."
A spokesperson for the Western Health and Social Care Trust said: "This is a very difficult situation and time for the residents concerned and their families.
"As an interim measure the trust will work alongside the management of the home to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the residents which remains the trust's priority."