It has emerged relatives of residents who died in the immediate aftermath of being transferred from the Valley Nursing Home in Clogher have brought their concerns at the high mortality rate to the attention of the PSNI.
The disclosure came at a Fermanagh and Omagh Council meeting as members discussed a response from the Minister for Health Robin Swann to a motion calling for a public inquiry and rejecting the content of a Lessons Learned Review report.
The content of the complaints, which have been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, set out serious issues involving multiple public authorities amid desperate efforts to be provided with critical information.
Brought by Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, CCLA, and seconded by Councillor Josephine Deehan, Independent, the motion deemed the report “inadequate, self-serving and failing to address the critical matter of residents’ deaths in the immediate aftermath of transfer, despite being of major concern to relatives and the principal reasoning for seeking the review”.
The motion also noted “the refusal of the Department of Health to provide the Terms of Reference for the review” and condemned the failure of all relevant authorities to address very specific issues.
In light of these repeated refusals “which relatives are fully entitled to be furnished with and would cost absolutely nothing”, the Council gave unqualified support for an independent public inquiry to extract answers from the Government authorities involved, “to obtain truth, accountability and where necessary, justice”.
In a brief reply, the Minister remained satisfied with the assurances of Health Trusts, adding: “There is no record that any resident passed away as a direct consequence of this process.”
The response led Councillor O’Cofaigh to express “dissatisfaction, as it takes us no further forward”.
He continued: “When everything is boiled away, this was a nursing home with 53 residents. Within a short period of [its] closure, 20 of those residents had died, many of whom were residents of this Council area.
“That’s three times the mortality rate in the home for the 18 months preceding the decision to close.
“All we have had are assertions of satisfaction without any evidential assessment, and no coroner’s investigation. That is not in any way acceptable.”
He added: “I have been informed by family members that this has now been brought to the attention of police, and at this stage the Council cannot really say much more as this may become an investigation.”
Councillor Josephine Deehan, Independent, was also disappointed by Minister Swann’s response, which she said “indicates he’s satisfied by assurances that every necessary step was taken around the transition process”.
She continued: “But it doesn’t explain the excessive deaths in what was a very vulnerable population … The response is inadequate and doesn’t reassure me in the least.
“Relatives whose loved ones died have contacted me, puzzled, shocked, horrified and demanding answers.
“It’s sad relatives have to go to police to find the answers they are entitled to.”
She was, however, pleased the Minister has assured lessons have been learned and relatives can continue to engage with the Health Trusts, which she said “is something positive, but I feel as a Council we owe it to our elderly residents and their families to ensure every protection and every consideration is given”.