Co Antrim care home to pay out £18,000 over patient’s death

The care home was fined after no training was given to staff in the use of potentially dangerous equipment
The care home was fined after no training was given to staff in the use of potentially dangerous equipment

A Co Antrim care home has been fined and ordered to pay costs totalling £18,279 for breaches in health and safety legislation arising out of the tragic death of one of its patients over three years ago.

Judge Desmond Marrinan told company directors Ian and Mary McGoldrick while his impression of them, reinforced by impressive references, was of a caring, conscientious couple, the tragedy of the immensely sad case was that a specific warning over the use of equipment given years earlier was not disseminated to staff.

Mr and Mrs McGoldrick’s company, McGoldrick Enterprises Ltd, had pleaded guilty to having “failed to conduct your undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that persons not in your employment who may be affected thereby were not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety”.

The charge arose out of the death of patient Ms Mary Dowds in their Maine Private Nursing home, Randalstown, on April 8, 2013. The company, which also runs a second care home, Ladyhill Lodge, in Antrim, had been charged with her corporate manslaughter. However, it was allowed to “remain on the books” and not proceeded with.

Ms Dowds, who had been a patient in the care home for over 20 years, was found dead in her room, in a chair especially provided for her needs. Prosecutor Neil Connor said the chair was provided with a strap, referred to in a number of ways, including a lap or safety belt, or pelvic positioner.

It appeared that Ms Dowds has slipped down the chair and had hung by the lap belt. Defence QC Patrick Lyttle said that reports indicated that the unfortunate Ms Dowds may have suffered a cardiac arrest before being caught up by the belt.

Mr Connor said that in 2008 the company were issued with a warning about possible problems with the use of the equipment and patients either slipping down, or out of the chair. Unfortunately staff were never advised of these warnings and no formal training was given.

Mr Lyttle said that the company’s guilty plea had been offered from the very outset and that everyone at McGoldrick Enterprises had co-operated fully with the investigations.

However, the stigma attached to what occurred has had a huge bearing on the couple, said Mr Lyttle, whom he described as decent hard-working people whose reputation had been destroyed over the past two years.

In all the company were fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of over £8,000 at Antrim Crown Court.

Making the order, Judge Marrinan echoed prosecution views that had the earlier warning been followed up rigorously the outcome on this unfortunate tragedy may have been different.