Northern Ireland news

Family of grandmother who learned through a death cert she died from suspected Covid-19 seek inquest

Rosie Burgess died from suspected Covid-19 in a care home last month Picture Mal McCann.
Seanín Graham

THE family of a pensioner who died in a care home from suspected Covid-19 is seeking an inquest to get the "truth" - after management insisted she didn't have the virus.

Rosie Burgess (85) from Belfast passed away in the Oak Tree Manor facility in Dunmurry last month, just a day after relatives were informed by staff she had become "unwell with constipation" and there was "nothing to worry about".

A death certificate signed by a GP stated the grandmother, who suffered from dementia, died from "bronchopneumonia"..."due to or as a consequence of suspected Covid-19".

Her son, Raymond, spoke to The Irish News earlier this month and revealed his shock when he learned from an undertaker that he could not see his mother's body and there would be no funeral service due to the details on the death certificate.

Mr Burgess said they want an inquest to get answers to "many unanswered questions" after a GP told him his mother's symptoms bore "all the hallmarks" of coronavirus.

Runwood homes, which is responsible for Oak Tree, confirmed in a statement that Mrs Burgess was not tested for the virus as she "had not displayed symptoms".

Solicitor Claire McKeegan of Phoenix Law has confirmed she had been instructed by the family to write to the coroner's office.

Ms McKeegan said questions must be asked about the "deeply concerning conflicting accounts" about the cause of Mrs Burgess' illness and death.

"Families should not have to beg for information at such a distressing time," she said.

Ms McKeegan also said a major inquiry into care home failings during the pandemic must take place.

"Given the volume of deaths in such a short period of time, the systemic issues must be looked at the inevitable public inquiry that will have to happen," she said.

Runwood homes also confirmed at the beginning of the month that three residents had died in the home after testing positive for coronavirus.

The facility was previously known as Dunmurry Manor and was embroiled in a major scandal two years ago over care standards.

A Runwood spokeswoman also said that they were "in regular contact with the family" and Mrs Burgess had an underlying respiratory condition and was receiving "palliative nursing care". However, the family say their mother was not receiving end-of-life care and had no underlying condition but was instead being treated for dementia.

Mr Burgess said: "I was ringing the home every night in the weeks before my mother died as we weren't allowed to visit during lockdown. On the night she died I rang throughout that day as they said she had become unwell but they kept telling me there was nothing to worry about. They insisted she didn't have coronavirus and it wasn't in the home," he said.

"We have spoken to a solicitor and would like an inquest as I want the truth to be told. I feel very angry about the communication around this."

Figures released by the Northern Ireland Research Statisical Agency (NISRA) yesterday showed there have been 274 coronavirus related deaths in care homes up until May 8, accounting for 45 per cent of the overall fatalities.

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