A week on since confirmation of a major coronavirus outbreak at a Skye nursing home, and there is growing anger as to how the infection was able to take hold in a setting seemingly so obvious in its vulnerability.
Last Wednesday (6th May) Colin Harris became the sixth resident of the Home Farm nursing home to die, after having tested positive for Covid-19.
He was 66 and had been living in the home for the past four years, receiving care for Parkinson’s and early-onset dementia.
Colin’s daughter, Zoe Docherty, said she hoped care home operators HC-One would “be held accountable for their negligence” towards staff and residents.
In total 57 residents and staff at the nursing home have tested positive for Covid-19, and Mrs Docherty fears that failure to address previous concerns surrounding staffing and infection control procedures may have had lethal consequences.
An inspection at Home Farm in January – following up on two complaints aired the previous November – found that requirements to address staff shortages, which in turn were having a knock-on effect on hygiene standards, hadn’t been met.
Mrs Docherty said her father received good care from staff, but believed workers at the home were let down by a lack of support from above.
She added: “I do not blame any of the care staff in Home Farm for my dad’s death. They treated dad and the others with compassion and respect over the years.
“I truly believe this is HC-One’s doing.”
Born in Glasgow in 1953, Colin Harris and his family moved to Edinbane in 2001 – to be nearer older family members and to allow him to enjoy the outdoors.
He had trained as a jockey in his early years, although illness eventually put paid his initial career aspirations.
The new start in Skye, along with wife Amanda, daughter Zoe and son Ethan, allowed Colin time to “take care of the house and enjoy the outdoors, go fishing and walk with the dogs”, Zoe said.
His health however, had been deteriorating gradually since 1995.
By 2012, at the age of 59, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s and dementia. Then another blow arrived at the end of 2012, when he developed lung cancer and was given just 12 months to live.
He defied expectations, battling through chemotherapy and radiotherapy to see milestones, such as his daughter’s marriage in 2014, that his family never thought possible.
Along with mum Amanda, Zoe and her husband Lewis looked after Colin as his health worsened, but after a stroke at the end of 2015 he was moved into full-time nursing care at Home Farm.
After appearing in a number of WHFP photographs taken during activities at Home Farm, Zoe joked that her Dad had become “the home’s poster boy”, but she said he made friends there and was content.
“He was close to Nora, who lived across the hall from him and would give him quavers and tell my mum off for disturbing him when he was trying to rest,” she added. “He retained his humour and always recognised us as a family.
“In 2017, my brother and his girlfriend welcomed Bradley into the world and my dad was made up. He lit up whenever Bradley came to visit him.
“We would take dad out for lunches, took him his favourite fish suppers while his dog Baillie, who he loved and asked for often, had visits too.
“He was able to see Bradley turn three and he was incredibly proud of us all as a family.”
Colin and Amanda celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with a family lunch on the 12th of March, but arrived back to the home to the news that from then on it would be shutting its doors to visitors.
Family were able to stay in touch by phone and video calls, and were able to visit at the bedroom window.
“The last time he cried because he said he was scared he wouldn’t see us again,” Zoe added. “I visited him at the window on Sunday 26th April and knew he wasn’t well.”
That Wednesday he tested positive for Coronavirus, and seven days later the family received the news they had been fearing.
Zoe was allowed access to the home, to be with her father in his final moments.
“In full PPE I sat and held his hand as his breathing changed,” she said. “My mum and brother arrived shortly after outside his window.
“They were not allowed in. I told him we were all there and how much we all loved him while he took his final breaths.
“My dad fought many battles and won, we had hoped and believed he had the strength to get through this, but this was one too many.
“We fully believe that he had plenty of life left in him, if it wasn’t for this virus getting into the home.
“My family want to thank all the carers and staff at Home Farm who took great care of my dad. We do not blame any of them for his death.
“We feel that he, along with the other residents and staff were let down by higher management, who failed to take action and protect them as they were meant to.
“Every resident who has passed was not a number. They were a person, who had people who loved them and whose lives will never be the same. For every resident who passes, we feel pain and mourn with their families.”
Colin Harris is survived by Amanda, Zoe, Ethan, Bradley and Liam – his son from a previous marriage whom he never forgot.
He’ll be laid to rest in a private ceremony at Balmacara this Thursday.