Coroners consider holding inquests into nursing home Covid-19 deaths

Coroners in Cork and Louth are investigating concerns raised by relatives of loved ones who died in nursing homes
Coroners consider holding inquests into nursing home Covid-19 deaths

Teresa Mulcahy, whose mother Margaret died at Ballynoe Nursing Home in Upper Glanmire, Cork, said: 'A coroner investigation would be an opportunity to understand why the Covid infection and death rates were so high.' Picture: Jim Coughlan

Two of the country’s leading coroners are considering holding inquests into Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes following appeals from families who lost loved ones. 

The Irish Examiner has learned that coroners in Cork and Louth are investigating concerns raised by relatives of loved ones who died in nursing homes during the pandemic.

News of the investigations has been welcomed by relatives, who have already called for a public inquiry into nursing home deaths.

Teresa Mulcahy, whose mother Margaret died in February at Ballynoe Nursing Home in Upper Glanmire, Cork, said: “This is great news. A coroner investigation would be an opportunity to understand why the Covid infection and death rates were so high."

Vivienne McNally, whose father Dominic died in April 2020 after catching Covid-19 at Dealgan Nursing Home in Dundalk, Co Louth, said: “Families like my own have been looking for answers since last April.

So far, nobody can offer any coherent answers to our questions.”

At least 1,000 nursing home residents are estimated to have died after contracting the virus.

Ballynoe Nursing Home and Dealgan Nursing Home were among the worst-affected homes.

At least 23 residents died in Dealgan and at least 21 died in Ballynoe.

Investigating concerns

Cork South coroner Frank O’Connell is investigating concerns raised about deaths in Ballynoe.

He said there is “every chance” he will investigate other deaths if he receives other allegations and there is substance to them.

However, he has ruled out a group inquest and will instead look at each case individually.

"I can investigate an act or omission leading to somebody's death," he said.

If somebody is neglected to such an extent that they die as a result of that neglect and that allegation is made to me, I can investigate that if I believe there is substance to that.

"This situation with multiple deaths in a nursing home from an infection is highly unusual if not unprecedented.

"So I maintain an open mind about the matter and may hold an inquest in an appropriate case.

"If somebody comes to me and tells me that something happened or did not happen which led to somebody's death and they produce some kind of evidence to that effect, it will certainly have to be investigated.

"I have had one such allegation from one of the (Ballynoe) families. I am investigating to see whether there is substance as to what has been alleged."

Ronan Maguire, Co Louth coroner, said: "I have not ruled out holding an inquest into such a death where circumstances justified so doing.

“There are currently some cases in which an inquest is being considered.”

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