Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

May 10, 2016

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Care home fined following resident’s death

A care home firm from Northern Ireland has been sentenced following the death of an elderly resident who died in a chair that had been fitted with a type of safety belt, in April 2013.

Antrim Crown Court heard how Mary Dowds, who had lived at the care home in Randalstown Co. Antrim for more than 20 years, and suffered from physical and learning difficulties, was placed in a care chair with the use of a lap-belt. She was left in her room unattended and inadequately observed, and was later found strangled by a poorly adjusted seat restraint as a result of slipping from her chair.

Antrim Crown Court was told the firm had been warned in 2008 about the danger of patients slipping down or out of the chair but had not trained staff.

A defence barrister said that reports into the death indicated that Ms Dowds may have suffered a cardiac arrest before being caught up by the belt.

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) investigation into Ms Dowd’s death found that the death could have been easily avoided if the available information about the dangers from incorrectly fitted or adjusted seat restraints had been acted upon.

McGoldrick Enterprises Ltd, trading as Maine Private Nursing Home, was fined £10,000 plus costs of £8,279 at Antrim Crown Court for health and safety failings which led to the death of a 51-year-old resident.

Speaking after the sentencing Kevin Campbell, an inspector with HSENI’s Major Investigation Team said: “Today our thoughts are with the family of Mary Dowds, whose death could have been easily avoided if the available information about the dangers from incorrectly fitted or adjusted seat restraints had been acted upon.

“Staff should also have been properly trained to make sure that restraints were fit for purpose, suitable for each individual resident, and adequately fitted and adjusted.

“In addition, a system of supervision should have been put in place to monitor each resident based on their needs, whether sleeping or awake. In this case, where Mary was left alone in a room, in a chair facing away from the doorway, a simple audio check was clearly not enough.”

The judge told the company’s directors that his impression of them was of a caring, conscientious couple and described it as an immensely sad case.

However, he said it was a tragedy that a specific warning over the use of equipment given years earlier was not passed on to care home staff.

A defence barrister said their firm had co-operated fully with the investigations into Ms Dowd’s death and admitted the health and safety breach from the outset of the prosecution.

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