The family of the first Covid-positive resident of Oaklands Nursing Home to have died have told The Kerryman they are looking for answers as to why action had not been taken sooner by the authorities.
Eight people infected with the disease at the Listowel nursing home have since died, following the death of a 100-year-old woman there on Monday.
Her death followed last week’s shocking revelations as outlined to Listowel District Court Judge David Waters by Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).
Deputy Chief Inspector of social services with HIQA told the court that a HIQA team found ‘a centre in chaos’ with residents ‘wandering unsupervised’ and some residents who were positive for Covid mingling with non-positive residents, on an inspection of the premises on November 4, after the outbreak in late October.
It was the seventh HIQA inspection of the centre this year due to the authority’s “high level of concern”. In an inspection on September 30, HIQA found a situation where ‘all staff were in contact with all patients’, Judge Waters was informed.
The Judge granted an application cancelling the registration of the company operating Oaklands – Bolden (Nursing) Ltd – as the registered provider of a nursing home.
He also granted an order allowing the HSE take over the home, effective as of last week.
Serious concerns were flagged by HIQA after an inspection on June 18 last, which found no person in charge of the facility on the day; issues of concern over ‘infection control practices within the centre’ and inadequate understanding regarding the use and disposal of PPE.
HIQA noticed on that inspection too that social distancing could not be adhered to at some tables seating up to seven residents in the dining area .
Healthcare workers were not wearing surgical masks when providing care within two metres of resident; staff temperatures were not being documented twice a day and infection prevention and control audits were not being conducted, HIQA noted in the report of the June 18 inspection.
There had been no evidence of any meetings between the two board members of Bolden Nursing Ltd – the registered provider owned by Michael O’Donoghue, with an address in Listowel, and Michael Joseph O’Donoghue and Mary O’Donoghue, with a different address in Listowel – since March last the report noted; leading HIQA to state ‘it appeared that communication had broken down’.
The family of the first resident who died after contracting Covid-19 at the nursing home told The Kerryman this week they are now seeking answers as to why action was not taken sooner – before Covid entered the facility at a time when the local district was among the worst hit in the country.
Much-loved Ballybunion cleric Fr Jerry Carroll (93) had been resident in Oaklands for two years. His nephew Jerry McSherry and wife Marina told The Kerryman they became increasingly worried for his welfare after he informed them he had tested positive for Covid on November 3.
The Lisselton couple visited him regularly until the pandemic hit in March, speaking to him by phone thereafter.
“We never had any reservations about the nursing home, he was always very comfortable, well looked after and happy there,” Jerry told The Kerryman.
“In fact I remember thinking how it was Covid had never gotten in there.”
Fr Carroll took ill in late October. “He rang Jerry and said he had been tested but that he had had the flu for seven or eight days,” Marina said.
“He wasn’t too badly hit by it at that stage, but little did we know he would be the first one to die two weeks later.”
Fr O’Carroll was confirmed to have had Covid on November 3. “He tested positive that day. We spoke to him every single day from November 2 on but when I phoned him on November 6 I could really hear it in his breathing,” Marina added.
The couple began frantically calling the home after speaking with him. “We couldn’t get through initially but luckily enough that evening they answered. They said his breathing was laboured and told us we could come up if we wanted.”
Despite Marina being worried for the welfare of her elderly mother at home, the couple was assured of adequate PPE to visit their beloved relative.
“We were concerned about going in as we had heard there were 16 confirmed cases there at that point. But they explained to us there were actually 31 while we were gowning up.
“When we got down to see him he just asked us ‘how did ye get in?,” Marina recounted. “Jerry said ‘we told them you were supposed to have been the Bishop and you turned it down’. He got a fit of laughing and spoke away to us, even asking about my mother.”
“He even told us ‘Biden has won’,” Jerry said. “I remarked to the nurse as we left him that he seemed quite strong, but she said he wasn’t and that he could be gone in an hour.”
Fr O’Carroll died the following day.
“He would have been 70 years a priest next June. He was a wonderful uncle,” Marina said, adding: “Our man to pray for us is gone now.”
She said the family have many questions now, in light of the clear concerns highlighted, as early as June, by HIQA.
“Why wasn’t action taken sooner? They should have taken more serious steps to get in there and protect the residents sooner, no question,” Marina said.
23 residents, all of whom have tested positive for Covid, now remain at the home, under the care of the HSE.
At least three others remain in Kenmare Hospital. Non-positive residents were transferred there, but tested positive for Covid-19 in the days after their relocation.
The chances of a positive outcome for residents improves with every passing day now, as families wait frantically on updates.
HIQA, an independent regulator of nursing homes, has declined to comment further on matters.
The HSE told The Kerryman it is now working to provide ‘the best possible care’ for the residents.
As Oaklands was heretofore an entirely private facility, the HSE had no legal basis to enter until its assistance was requested by the owners after the initial outbreak.
The HSE then began providing what it said was a ‘high level of support’ until it had ‘stabilised’ the situation, handing the governance back to the owners early last week.
That was before HIQA informed Judge Waters of the November 4 concerns, whose subsequent order provided for the HSE to take over the governance, on an interim basis.
“Our priority will be the residents…and making sure that we provide them with the best possible care. We understand this is a worrying time for residents, their loved ones and for staff, and we will do everything possible to reassure them and keep them updated,” the HSE informed The Kerryman this week.