Northern Ireland news

Legal action taken against failure to set up Covid care home inquiry

Raymond Burgess pictured in 2020. Picture by Mal McCann

THE son of a pensioner who died from suspected coronavirus in a south Belfast care home is taking legal action against the failure to set up a separate public inquiry into Covid in residential care facilities.

Raymond Burgess is taking the action on behalf of his mother Rosie Burgess (85) who died in Oak Tree Manor in Dunmurry in April 2020.

Papers for a judicial review were lodged last month.

A review hearing will be heard in the High Court in Belfast today.

Mr Burgess told The Irish News in 2020 that his family were shocked to learn that a doctor had certified his mother's cause of death as "suspected Covid-19".

"It meant I couldn't touch my mum who I hadn't seen in weeks. The doctor said she had Covid symptoms, I was horrified," he said.

"They couldn't even embalm her and the coffin was closed. There were six of us in the funeral parlour and the undertaker said a few words by way of a service. But we had to watch the hearse being driven away as Roselawn was closed at the time. I feel so angry about it now."

Last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged a UK-wide inquiry. However, Scotland has already set up its own inquiry.

Solicitor Claire McKeegan, of Phoenix Law, is acting for Mr Burgess.

She said an inquiry into the handling of care home residents during the pandemic must be held.

"The independent SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) experts are firm that Northern Ireland and all of the devolved nations must have their own independent inquiries," she said.

"Scotland has established its public inquiry.

"The high level of disproportionate deaths in care homes particularly at the outset of the pandemic when our client sadly died was extraordinary and requires urgent investigation."

The commissioner for older people, Eddie Lynch, has previously called for a Northern Ireland-based inquiry.

"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," he said.

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