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Dunmurry Manor families to protest at watchdog offices following scathing report

Families of residents who suffered neglect in Dunmurry Manor care home are to stage a protest
Seanín Graham

RELATIVES of pensioners who suffered appalling neglect in a Belfast care home are to stage a protest outside the regulator's headquarters.

They will highlight their concerns about the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) and challenge its claim that it "did not fail" in its duty over Dunmurry Manor.

Families also met with a solicitor yesterday a part of joint action to pursue corporate manslaughter charges against the Essex-based private company which owns the 76-bed facility.

A scathing investigation last week found there had been a "horrific catalogue of inhuman and degrading treatment" at the Dunmurry home, which opened four years ago and was repeatedly inspected by the watchdog.

Carried out by the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, the probe was highly critical of the RQIA's role - with commissioner Eddie Lynch stating its inspectors found the home "to be meeting the required standards of care" when "terrible incidents" were occurring.

Relatives of Annie McCourt hold a picture of her at the launch of a report into Dunmurry Manor Care Home. Picture by Hugh Russell

The protest will take place this Friday at 11am close to the RQIA's office in Lanyon Place in Belfast and has been organised by a woman who was one of two whistleblower relatives who approached Mr Lynch in December 2016.

Julieann McNally said she has not received an apology from the RQIA or the Department of Health since the publication of the shocking findings last Wednesday.

Her grandmother, Annie McCourt, was in the Dunmurry home for six months between January and June 2016 and experienced poor care, going without food and not being washed properly.

The 89-year-old west Belfast woman suffered a fall two years ago but it took staff 10 hours to contact her family. When they found her, she was slumped on a chair with vomit down her back.

"We didn't expect to hear anything initially from the authorities but after the commissioner's report came out we thought there might have been some sort of apology," Ms McNally said.

"Instead the RQIA issued a statement saying they didn't agree with some of the findings - even though they had submitted their own evidence to it.

"We are organising this protest to keep the momentum going and to represent our loved ones."

Julieann McNally was one of the whistleblowers who raised the alarm about her grandmother's care in Dunmurry Manor

Twenty-four hours after the publication of the 'Home Truths' probe, the RQIA's chief executive, Olive MacLeod, told the BBC that she refuted allegations it had failed in its statutory duties.

"We did not fail. We inspected and took the appropriate action to help this home to improve," she said.

The watchdog then issued a statement saying it "does not agree" with part of the report, insisting there was no evidence of institutional abuse at the care home.

Meanwhile, it also emerged yesterday there was an outbreak of the superbug C. difficile at the home, with the Public Health Agency confirming a case.

The facility has made "important improvements" and is meeting care standards, according to the Department of Health.

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