Northern Ireland news

Workers 'devastated' after care home resident chokes to death

Marie McGrady leaves Downpatrick Court . Pic Pacemaker.

The tragic death of a vulnerable care home resident who choked on an orange segment has had a “profound impact” on the company and staff, a judge has heard.

Downpatrick Crown Court also heard the South Eastern Health Trust continue to have a working partnership with Seeconnell Private Village since 57-year-old Mervyn Patterson died more than four years ago.

At an earlier hearing Corriewood Private Clinic Ltd, who own the nursing home on the Clonvaraghan Road in Castlewellan, pleaded guilty to a single count of failing to ensure the health and safety of a non-employee on 20 March 2014.

The charge arose, prosecuting counsel Laura Ievers told the court, as a result of the “tragic and sudden death” of Mr Patterson who suffered from severe autism and learning difficulties.

He had spent 50 years in Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Antrim before he was transferred to Seeconnell in December 2013 having been assessed under the Community Integration Project as “suitable for transition back in to community care.”

As a result of a investigation by the police and local council, it transpired that while it was available, the teenage support worker who prepared the supper that night “had never read Mr Patterson’s care plan nor been given time to do so” so she unaware of his dietary requirements.

Her colleague said he gave Mr Patterson his medicine in a cup of yoghurt but had left him unsupervised while returning the medicine cups to the office.

Despite returning to his patient “within a minute,” it was while he was away that Mr Patterson began to fatally choke.

He told investigators he knew Mr Patterson had issues with food as it was in his care plan but that he believed “an orange would have been a suitable food stuff".

Giving evidence yesterday, Marie McGrady, listed as the “responsible person” for the care facility, said in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and on a continuing basis, assessments and reviews have been conducted and changes implemented to ensure nothing like this happens again.

At mealtimes, Ms McGrady said each residents meal was checked and signed off by two members of staff that it complied to recommendations so “there’s a double check at every meal.”

Judge Grant adjourned sentencing until next Thursday.

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