CARE Home regulator the RQIA have ordered a local care home to act after the potentially deadly legionella bug was found in their hot and cold water systems.
In April this year, the Andersonstown News reported that the Fire Service had issued a Prohibition Notice on Glenalina Lodge Care Centre in the upper Springfield area, giving residents days to be placed into alternative accommodation.
The Andersonstown News now understands that eight residents have been readmitted to the home in recent weeks, despite care home operator Radius being made aware of the presence of legionella in the water system following an inspection of the site on September 6.

An Area For Improvement (AFI) recommendation was made in the subsequent inspection report that the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria was to be suitably controlled prior to the re-admittance of residents to the home. 

The Notice of Proposal states that the RQIA was subsequently informed on October 3 2022 by the 'Responsible Individual' of their intention to begin the re-admittance of residents commencing on October 4. 

However, results of the most recent water samples at that time indicated that legionella bacteria were still present in the premises’ hot and cold water systems. 
Results from water samples forwarded to RQIA on October 5 further confirmed the continued presence of legionella bacteria. 

The proposal says that: “RQIA is concerned that the Responsible Individual’s decision to re-admit residents to the home under such circumstances and contrary to the direction provided by RQIA during the recent estates inspection evidenced a lack of effective risk management and placed residents at potential risk of harm. 

“Further contact with the Responsible Individual on 6 and 7 October 2022 confirmed that eight residents had been admitted into the home from 4 to 7 October 2022 (inclusive) contrary to the direction of RQIA 

“It was also noted that the Responsible Individual had not made any recent contact with the Environmental Health Officer prior to these admissions in order to determine the appropriateness of such a decision.”

The report says that the RQIA is “concerned” that the “delayed, inconsistent and limited nature of communication from the Responsible Individual” in respect of these matters evidenced a “lack of robust and effective oversight” so as to promote the safety and wellbeing of residents and ensure compliance with the regulations. 

Julieann McNally of Care Home Advice and Support NI, whose grandmother died in Dunmurry Manor Nursing Home, said: “We must call into question the actions of Radius as the responsible registered provider. Why would they go against the Notice of Proposal from RQIA to cease admissions and put both individual residents and staff members at risk?

“We would call on Radius to engage with the RQIA to ensure safe effective management of legionella, ensuring there is no risk to current residents or staff. If the RQIA as the regulator are issuing Notice of Proposals that are effectively ignored what action will now be  taken?”

A spokesperson for the RQIA said: “On 6 September 2022, RQIA conducted an Estates inspection at Glenalina Lodge Care Centre, a Residential Care Home in Belfast, to assess the fitness of the premises – given it had been vacated for some time, following the issue of a Prohibition Notice by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) in May 2022. 
“As a result of the NIFRS Notice, all residents were moved to alternative accommodation.  
“During the 6 September RQIA inspection, ongoing works to control risks from legionella bacteria in the home’s hot and cold water systems were discussed with the provider. It was agreed that no residents should be admitted until the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria was suitably controlled.  
“In early October, RQIA was advised that eight residents had been admitted into the home contrary to the direction of RQIA.  
“As a result, RQIA took Regulatory Enforcement action.  In order to protect the safety of the existing residents and considering the situation in the Home, RQIA issued a Notice of Proposal to the provider to cease further admissions to the home, and take actions to ensure effective management of the legionella bacteria was suitably controlled.  
“Existing residents could remain with those controls and safety measures in place. That enforcement will remain in place until RQIA is assured that the risk from legionella bacteria in the water systems is suitably controlled. 
“RQIA acknowledge the ongoing actions being taken by the management of Glenalina Lodge to address these matters, including their engagement of a water safety specialist, and the use of filters and disinfection to minimise the risks to those currently living at this home, in line with the appropriate approved codes of practice and Environmental Health advice involvement.  
“The safety and wellbeing of all those living at Glenalina Lodge is of paramount importance to RQIA, and we will continue to monitor this service in line with our regulatory powers."

Radius Housing, who run the home, said: “Radius is working with the RQIA on a water hygiene management plan for the Glenalina Lodge Care Centre.  

“With the assistance of specialist contractors and a water hygiene expert, measures have been introduced to ensure the safety of those residents who have already been re-admitted to Glenalina.  

“Further admissions to the scheme have been put on hold while the extra measures are being fully implemented. Radius has been in communication with those residents aiming to move into the scheme and will endeavour to begin readmissions in the near future, in consultation with the RQIA and the Belfast Trust."

Radius says it carries out regular and rigorous testing of its water systems across all its communal housing schemes, in accordance with industry standards.  

“On occasions traces of water bacteria may present within the non-drinkable water elements of the water systems," Radius added.  

“In such cases, specialist contractors will move to disinfect and then retest the water supplies within the schemes.  

“In a separate development Glenalina Care Lodge had originally been decanted of residents in April to allow for essential fire protection works. These were completed to the satisfaction of the NIFRS after a period of two weeks.”