Family’s fear for son Colm

Teresa McGuinness and her daughter Laura with pictures of some of Colm's injuries., taken several years ago. They say they are worried that Colm's self-harming will lead to serious injury or even his death unless action is taken.
Teresa McGuinness and her daughter Laura with pictures of some of Colm's injuries., taken several years ago. They say they are worried that Colm's self-harming will lead to serious injury or even his death unless action is taken.
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A Greysteel family is demanding urgent action on the management of the care of their severely disabled son because they fear he may seriously hurt himself or others while under the supervision of the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

Colm McGuinness, aged 24, has been living at Ralphs Close care home at Gransha in Derry for the last 18 months after moving from another local care facility, Brooke Lodge. The family say Colm has severe physical and mental disabilities, and severe challenging behaviour.

Colm’s family stress the staff on the ground in the unit are excellent, and are doing the best they can under what they claim are challenging circumstances, but they fear “Colm will die” if action isn’t taken.

“We were promised Colm would be safe but five years on and things are deteriorating by the day,” said Colm’s mother, Teresa. “His medical condition is worse now than when he went in back in 2007.”

In a statement, a Western Health and Social Care Trust spokesperson said: “Respecting confidentiality the Trust cannot comment on individual patient treatment and care. On all occasions we would encourage families to engage with the Trust as this is important for the effective delivery of the necessary services to meet the client’s needs.”

Teresa said her youngest child has suffered a series of injuries that are self inflicted – from scratches on his face to bruising and black eyes. Footage of Colm recorded by his family in the last six months, and seen by the ‘Journal’, shows Colm repeatedly bang his head off the wall and furniture in his room, including a wardrobe and dressing table.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Teresa. “We visit Colm every evening and he’s always got some sort of injury. We ask how he’s been hurt and we are told, but we don’t know how’s he’s taken so much or how much more he can take. This has been going on for five years. Speaking out like this is a last resort. We’re at breaking point. It’s our worst nightmare.”

The family says they have had several meetings with the Trust but “we haven’t got any satisfaction”, said Teresa.

“They don’t seem to be able to get Colm the care he needs,” she claimed. “At the minute we are scared to death and we’ll get a phone call to say something serious has happened. We just want Colm to get the care he needs. Our biggest fear is he is going to end up dead.”

Colm’s sister Laura said the family were reluctant to speak out, but feel they had no other option.

“We didn’t want to do this, go public, and take away what little dignity he has left but we want Colm to be safe. The Trust is responsible for Colm and his safety and that also means keeping the other patients safe and the staff too. The staff are brilliant, but maybe they need more staff or more training, I don’t know, but something needs done.”

Laura said Colm’s self-harming is “slowing killing him and it’s just a matter of time”.

She added: “Speaking out publicy about Colm is a well-thought-out decision that was taken by the family. It’s very distressing to put Colm’s disability in the limelight like this, and that was the last thing we wanted to do, but we’ve been left with no other option.”

In an effort to bring attention to Colm’s case, the family asked the Journal to post a video clip of footage of Colm’s behaviour on www.derryjournal.com

It’s understood that the footage has been brought to the attention of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority, Northern Ireland’s independent health and social care regulator. The video clip has now been taken down.