14 Aug 2022

Families of those who died in Dealgan House continue to push for a public inquiry into the nursing home

Dealgan House families

Relatives of those who died in Dealgan House hold photos of loved ones who passed away last year

Families of those who died in Dealgan House are continuing to campaign for a public inquiry into the deaths of 22 elderly people within the nursing home last year.

The families, who have been pushing for a public inquiry since last year, have said that without an inquiry, they will continue to be unable to grieve for their lost loved ones.

Laura Newberry, whose mother passed away in Dealgan last year, said that the group want the inquiry held as soon as possible.

“I would like it done as soon as possible… This is 14 months now and we are not grieving,” said Mrs Newberry.

“We were blue in the face asking Ministers for this inquiry,” said Mrs Newberry, with multiple members of the group meeting with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly in October last year.

Previously, Dealgan House has said that they would cooperate fully with any investigations or inquiry into what happened within their nursing home early last year.

According to Jane Wynne, whose father passed away in Dealgan, she alongside several other campaigners met with Minister Donnelly and junior Minister Mary Bulter on the 28th of October 2020.

Ms Wynne said that both Ministers said it would only be a few short weeks before there would be a decision made on the inquiry, but that they hadn’t heard back from the government since that meeting.

“That [meeting] was on the 28th of October and we’ve emailed them since and there’s no response from them,” said Ms Wynne.

“They told us that we’d get a response in a few short weeks.”

“When we spoke to them, I remember saying to them, ‘Please do this, every single person that you hear of dying just makes it harder and harder to grieve and harder to get over and that we didn’t want it to happen to anyone else’.”

In a statement, the Department of Health said that the government are currently examining ways to improve protections of nursing homes, on the back of a report by the Nursing Homes Expert Panel.

“There has been significant and ongoing consideration of this impact since the start of the pandemic, with various examinations and development of reports with a focus on COVID-19, its impact on nursing homes and the pandemic learnings that can inform future policy, regulation and the model of care for older persons,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Health.

However, the Department did not specifically comment on questions asked by the Democrat around a public inquiry into what happened at Dealgan House Nursing Home.

Marybeth Mulligan said that they didn’t believe that the government had forgotten about them, but that they might not be willing to face the backlash.

“They might not necessarily have forgotten us, but it’s like they don’t want to face the heat of it.. It’s such a serious situation,” said Mrs Mulligan.

Vivian McNally, whose father Dominic McNally passed away in Dealgan, said that the inquiry is needed to find out why the nursing home was non-compliant with seven regulations after the RCSI took control of the service.

According to a HIQA report on the nursing home released last year, the home was non-compliant with regulations like infection control.

Mrs McNally expressed her concerns, saying that if there were gaps in regulations after the RCSI came in, what was it like before.

The issue has returned to the forefront after an RTÉ Investigates programme on nursing homes during the early stages of the pandemic that aired last week.

The group released a statement after the programme aired where they said they were “saddened but not surprised” by what the documentary showed.

“Our concerns about what was happening in Dealgan House were raised with TDs, HIQA, the HSE and others and, even today, more than 14 months after the tragedy in Dealgan, we continue to have to navigate the web of agencies and organisations that have ‘part-responsibility’ for those in nursing home care,” said the group in a statement.

“Trying to gather pieces of information, through Freedom of Information requests, in order to put together a picture of what happened in Dealgan has been time-consuming and frustrating, to say the least.

“The efforts we have made as families have been done against the very difficult background of our personal grief at losing our loved ones.”

In a statement to the Democrat, Dealgan House said: “Dealgan House Nursing Home remains deeply saddened by the loss of 22 residents due to Covid-19 during our outbreak in April and May of last year.”

“Over the last fourteen months we have engaged at length with any relatives of those who passed away who may have questions and we continue to do so.”

Emma Duffy and Paul Crewe, whose father Oliver Crewe passed away in the nursing home last year, said that there needs to be a significant tightening of regulations surrounding privately run nursing homes.

“I assumed before Dad went in that these facilities were highly regulated and from what I can see the regulations are very lax,” said Mrs Duffy.

“A sheer tighten of those regulations needs to come into place, like mandatory staffing per resident. If that’s the one thing that comes out of it, I’d be happy.

“The onus is on the government to enforce that.”

Mrs Duffy also wants to see more work on legislation to protect older people, similar to the Children Act, 2001.

Both Mrs Duffy and Mr Crewe said that the inquiry needs to be done to expand beyond Covid and to examine how privately run nursing homes are operated, managed and regulated.

“We’re living in a very ageing population, globally and in Ireland, and if they [the government] want nursing home models to be in any way palatable for people going forward, they need to either make a completely public service, find ways to look after people in their homes or regulate more rigidly the private sector,” said Mr Crewe.

The group have gathered support from local politicians, with both Sinn Féin’s Ruairí Ó Murchú and Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd raising the issue of a public inquiry in the Dáil last Friday.

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