Lawyers have written to a UK-wide award scheme seeking an explanation after it named the boss of a disgraced care home chain Care Home Executive of the Year.
he devastated family of a former resident of Clifton Nursing Home are demanding answers after it emerged Gavin O’Hare Connolly has been recognised by the Leaders in Care Awards for providing “inspired leadership on a company and sector-wide level” and driving his organisation “to achieve great things over the past year”.
Mr O’Hare Connolly, chief operating officer of Runwood Homes, was handed the award in front of hundreds of his peers at a glittering award ceremony despite the company he heads up being linked to a number of high-profile scandals in Northern Ireland.
Mr O’Hare Connolly was registered with the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) as the responsible individual at Clifton Nursing Home when health bosses deemed it so dangerous they wanted to remove all residents during a deadly Covid-19 outbreak last May.
He was also the responsible individual when a joint investigation by the PSNI and Northern Trust was launched to examine concerns in Glenabbey Manor following a report made to the police on August 12 last year.
A separate PSNI probe into allegations of abuse and neglect at Dunmurry Manor, which was at the centre of a damning review by the Commissioner for Older People, is ongoing.
Belfast solicitor Kevin Winters said he had been instructed by the family of Iris Hull to write to the organisers of the Leaders in Care awards.
Mrs Hull was 87 when she died last August after suffering an unwitnessed fall at Clifton Nursing Home on the same day she was diagnosed with Covid-19.
Her family is now seeking an inquest after the Belfast Trust said it could not determine what happened to Mrs Hull before she was found with a head injury after catching Covid-19 and falling at Clifton Nursing Home, since renamed City View Court.
A letter from KRW Law said: “Our client is distressed and concerned that this award was given to personnel connected with Runwood Homes who were previously responsible for the administration of Clifton Nursing Home at a time whenever our client’s mother was resident.
“The conditions of her residency is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings.”
Mr Winters said concerns about Clifton Nursing Home have been repeatedly made.
“To that end our client would like to know what criteria was used in order to assess entitlement to such a prestigious event,” he continued.
“Secondly she would like to know whether or not the issues cited herein were known to the selection panel.
“You will appreciate the family of Iris Hull are distressed and agitated upon learning about this award at a very difficult time for them, when they are in the middle of navigating complex and sensitive legal issues surrounding the sad passing of their mother.
“If it transpires that these matters were not before the assessing panel we can advise that our client’s firm instructions are to make an application to have the award rescinded.”
The Leaders in Care Awards were contacted for comment.
A spokeswoman from Runwood Homes previously said: “The award is based on a range of factors and considers executive leadership throughout the most difficult time the health and social care sector has ever faced with clear reference made to the importance of team work through an unprecedented period.
“We continue to be very proud of all of our staff and wider teams and thank them sincerely for their unwavering support, hence acceptance of any award is recognition of our wider staff team monumental efforts, including our essential care givers and our residents’ loved ones.”
It added: “As a sector and indeed a society we must now reflect on the continued learning we are now seeing from both UK government reviews and locally on the early decisions taken in respect of care homes with an ultimate goal on how all agencies can improve through such learning as we move forward.”
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