Health Minister must re-examine Meath nursing home deaths, says advocacy group

The facts must be established into how a 79-year-old man and his 52-year-old stepson both died having contracted Covid-19, an advocacy group has warned.
Health Minister must re-examine Meath nursing home deaths, says advocacy group
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has been urged to re-examine the care given to two Meath nursing home residents. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has been urged to re-examine the care given to two Meath nursing home residents. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The facts must be established into how a 79-year-old man and his 52-year-old stepson both died having contracted Covid-19, an advocacy group has warned.

Sage Advocacy is calling on the new Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to conduct an investigation into the care provided to Ultan Meehan and his stepson Adrian Bartley at a private nursing home facility in Co Meath.

The group said it was a "uniquely horrible" case that highlighted a lack of oversight and governance over the care in private nursing homes.

The advocacy group was commenting on a case reported by the Irish Times on Monday involving the death of Mr Meehan and his 52-year-old stepson at a private nursing home facility where the men, who shared a room, died 10 weeks apart. Mr Meehan was found to have a maggot-infested wound on his face when he later died in hospital in June.

The advocacy group intervened in the care of Mr Meehan, who had dementia and cancer, and made four 'notices of concern' to the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

The organisation had also raised the nursing home deaths with the previous Health Minister Simon Harris but found no state agency had overall responsibility or oversight for clinical care at private nursing homes.

Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, Mervyn Taylor, has now called on the new Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to conduct an investigation into the care provided at the private nursing home facility and also the adequacy of the response provided by statutory agencies.

The HSE and Hiqa, Mr Taylor said, had no authority to oversee or investigate the care given to residents in private nursing homes.

“There’s no clarity about who’s in charge of clinical care in nursing homes and there’s no oversight if anything goes wrong,” Mr Taylor said.

“When push comes to shove we haven’t got clarity about who really carries the can.".

Mr Taylor said the group had raised the oversight and governance issue in a submission to the recently established Covid-19 expert panel on nursing homes.

Earlier this year, the advocacy group also published a discussion document on how medical care in nursing homes could be improved.

By way of example, Mr Taylor said a defined ratio between the number of nurses and residents is needed in nursing homes as none exist at present.

The group is also calling for a network of regionally based consultant geriatricians to be supported by a small team of advanced nurse practitioners with specialist training in the care of older people.

Mr Taylor called on the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to investigate the care provided at the Co Meath nursing home.

"He could ask the expert nursing home panel to look at this in more detail and to see what can be learned from it. Parallel to that, he could also ask an independent expert to investigate the particular circumstances," Mr Taylor said.

“There are issues in this case that are really quite horrifying and it isn’t just enough to say that lessons will be learned."

It is understood the nursing home involved submitted a report to HIQA regarding the late Mr Meehan in June and is awaiting the outcome of a further review by the health watchdog.

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