Coroner to probe care home death

An inquest will be held into the death of a woman in a Belfast care home whose family say they only learned of her suspected Covid-19 through a death certificate.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 4:25 pm
Updated Friday, 4th June 2021, 9:32 am
Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye. Dunmurry Manor is now known as Oak Tree Manor

Rosemary Burgess passed away at Oak Tree Manor – formerly known, under previous ownership, as Dunmurry Manor – during the early part of the pandemic on April 16 last year.

At the time, her family told the Irish News newspaper they had only learned of the suspected coronavirus through a death certificate.

Coroner Joe McCrisken, at a preliminary hearing, announced that he will now hold an inquest into her death.

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In 2018 the care home was the subject of a damning report by the Older People’s Commissioner Eddie Lynch following a lengthy investigation that found an “horrific catalogue of inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Mr McCrisken, however, gave an “early indication” at Thursday morning’s remote hearing that Mr Lynch’s findings would not be explored by the inquest.

“We will have a discussion at a later stage about scope,” he said. “At this early stage I will give you an indication that the scope will be relatively focused on the medical cause of death for this lady, and the events that led up to her death – the days, and perhaps even weeks before her death.”

He continued: “I appreciate that there are some comments about a previous investigation that took place concerning the care home a number of years before, but at this stage I don’t see that that falls within my remit as coroner. But that will be a discussion for another day, I think.”

Mr McCrisken said there are questions about the cause of death to be answered.

“I’ve looked back through the paperwork and, in fact, I’ve made a decision that I should hold an inquest inquiry into the death of Mrs Burgess,” he said. “It seems to me that there are a number of questions in and around the medical cause of her death that can be properly answered during the end of an inquest.”

A solicitor representing the owner of the home at that time – a firm known as Runwood Homes who have since sold the facility along with a string of others in Northern Ireland – expressed sadness for Mrs Burgess and her family. He added that April last year was a “particularly difficult time for all involved”.