Tanya Fowles (Local Democracy Reporter)
Call for Public Inquiry into handling of care home residents throughout pandemic
The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Older People Eddie Lynch is calling for a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic in care homes in Northern Ireland.
So far, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council have been the only local authority to demand an inquiry, and while the vote to do so passed, there was a clear split down party lines with both unionist groupings opposed.
It is understood the members who proposed that motion will be tabling a follow-up in support of the Commissioner’s call.
Mr Lynch said:
“I have spoken to all political parties in recent weeks stating my clear position that a public inquiry into how care homes were managed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic should take place.
“There has been a huge number of excess deaths in care homes with latest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency revealing that deaths of care home residents account for 30% of all COVID-related deaths.
“COVID has impacted us all, but for older people, and particularly care home residents, those impacts have been exceptionally arduous.
“Over the past year we witnessed the incorrect recording of care home deaths, families having no access to loved ones, personal protective equipment (PPE) supply problems, inappropriate use of do not attempt resuscitation orders, the slow introduction of testing, the transfer of COVID-positive patients into care homes – the list goes on.
“The Prime Minister’s UK wide public inquiry will consult with devolved governments across the UK, but I urge the NI Executive to conduct an inquiry which specifically looks at the care and management of residents and care homes and not to delay any longer in commencing what is likely to be a long process.
“Families deserve an answer on why deaths in care homes here were so extensive and why care home residents were disproportionately affected by this pandemic. It’s been almost two years since the first lockdown was announced, now is the time for work to get underway.”
The Commissioner concluded: “A public inquiry will help to ascertain how and why decisions were made, the impact of those decisions and what could and should be done differently in the future. It’s time for answers.”