world : ‘Mum’s wound was left festering for 11 days'

Wednesday 10 July 2024 08:49 AM

Nafeza 2 world - Image source, FAMILY HANDOUT
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Ethna Wilson was a resident at Parkdean Nursing Home in north Belfast

Lyndsey Telford

BBC News NI

An elderly woman who was terminally ill died believing she was being neglected at a care home that is now facing closure.

Ethna Wilson, 88, was a resident at Parkdean Nursing Home in north Belfast for just over a month before her death in June 2023.

Her son Gavin Wilson told BBC News NI some basic needs went unmet, including a wound that was left to “fester” for 11 days.

Parkdean said the experiences Mr Wilson described were “not typical” of those of its residents.

In a statement, it added: “We are continuing to work hard to improve our service and we are confident that the care we provide is safe, effective and compassionate.”

'Avoidable harm'

The nursing home in Fortwilliam Park, which provides care for up to 64 patients, is currently appealing a decision by the health watchdog to close it down.

In April, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) said patients were “suffering avoidable harm” at Parkdean, which is owned by Amstecos Ltd.

It issued a notice of decision to cancel the registration of the home after it was found to be failing to meet standards in wound care.

Concerns had also been raised about poor patient outcomes regarding end-of-life care.

Mrs WilsonImage source, FAMILY HANDOUT
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Mrs Wilson lived a full life prior to her cancer diagnosis

Following a Freedom of Information Act request, BBC News NI can reveal that the number of safeguarding referrals made to the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust regarding Parkdean Nursing Home increased dramatically in the past three years.

In 2021, seven referrals were made to the trust’s adult protection gateway team; in 2022, six referrals were made; but in 2023, the number of safeguarding referrals had risen to 40.

Mrs Wilson lived a full and independent life well into her 80s, but following a cancer diagnosis was admitted to Parkdean for palliative care.

'They're being very rough with me'

Her son said her complaints about the home started quickly.

“The first thing she said to me was: ‘They’re being very rough with me in here’,” he said.

"Those words will always stick with me, because I sort of thought: ‘What do you mean mum? Be careful. Like what do you mean by that?’

"She just said: 'They’re being rough with me when they’re turning me or they’re changing me’.

“She was saying: ‘They don’t take any time with me, they don’t speak to me, everything’s rushed’.”

He said a request from his mother for the home to facilitate emotional support to help her come to terms with her diagnosis went unmet.

“She would have loved nothing more than to just have a wee chat with a cup of tea,” he said.

Mrs Wilson at the Great Wall of ChinaImage source, FAMILY HANDOUT
Image caption,

Mrs Wilson at the Great Wall of China

Mrs Wilson’s situation was escalated after a nurse visited the home to check on a pre-existing leg wound and discovered it hadn’t been tended to since she moved in 11 days beforehand.

“She discovered when she assessed my mum that the wound was festering,” Mr Wilson told the BBC.

“It was like an ulcer and it had been seeping blood, and it was giving off a very strong odour.

“Mum had been saying she was in pain, but wasn’t maybe able to extract what levels of pain and where it was. But I’m sure in hindsight, looking back, that pain would have been awful.

“Looking back, 11 days just sounds horrific. It’s hard to even contemplate how a lady that’s so frail and vulnerable in that position, that’s being changed on a daily basis allegedly and moved, that that wouldn’t be picked up.

"I can’t understand even to this day how that happens.”

The nurse who discovered the wound made a safeguarding referral to the Belfast Trust, which subsequently carried out an investigation into Mrs Wilson’s care.

Poor quality of care

In its report, the investigating team concluded “there [did] not appear to be criminal intent to have ‘wilfully’ neglected Mrs Wilson”.

It added there was “significant evidence to suggest that the fragmented relationships among the members of staff, lack of communication and carelessness contributed to the poor quality of care that Mrs Wilson received”.

In its statement to BBC News NI, Parkdean Nursing Home said it had “cooperated fully” with the investigation.

“A series of actions were agreed and the investigation was closed on 31 January 2024,” it said.

“The experiences described by Mr Wilson are not typical of the experience of residents in Parkdean.

“The wellbeing of our residents has always been our top priority.”

The statement added that since the opening of the home in 1984, it had cared for many hundreds of patients - the vast majority of whom had been “very happy” with the care they received.

Mrs Wilson with her son Gavin as a childImage source, FAMILY HANDOUT
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Mrs Wilson with Gavin as a child

Following the Belfast Trust’s investigation, Mr Wilson said some improvements had been made during his mother’s time at the home – particularly around communication between staff and himself.

But he said his mother, who was fully aware of her situation, died believing she was being neglected.

“It was eating away at her because there were just so many things on a daily basis that she was exposed to that made her think: ‘What is happening to me? Why have I been left here? Why am I being neglected so badly?’” he said.

“I chose that placement with the view that my mum’s end of life care was going to be managed well, managed safely, managed comfortably, she was going to be content as much as she could be. And at no stage was that done.”

Mr Wilson said he spoke at one point to the then manager of the home who admitted: “We have let your mum down, I know, and I’m really sorry.”

He said the manager had a tear in their eye because they “knew the whole thing was a mess”.

Mr Wilson added that he would not put his “worst enemy” in Parkdean, and is now calling for the home to be closed down.

Mrs Wilson with her son and grandchildrenImage source, FAMILY HANDOUT
Image caption,

Mrs Wilson with her son and grandchildren

The RQIA told the BBC that its move in April to close the home followed “proportionate and stepped enforcement actions” since August last year.

It said the decision was due to Parkdean’s “continued failure to achieve compliance” with its regulations.

In the past 10 years, five care homes have been closed as a result of RQIA enforcement action.

Parkdean is now appealing the watchdog’s decision to cancel its registration to the Care Tribunal.

As a respondent to the appeal, the RQIA is currently awaiting a hearing date.

In a statement, it added: “Throughout this time, RQIA continues to work with the health and social care trusts, who are engaging with residents and their families directly affected by these circumstances.”

Meanwhile, the Belfast Trust told the BBC it had been working closely with families and residents to ensure a smooth transition to a new care home.

“We know that this is an anxious time for residents and their families, we wish to reassure them that their well-being is our priority and they will be fully supported throughout this process,” it said in a statement.

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