Protesters campaign outside Dáil sitting over the closure of St. Mary's Telford Nursing Home

Last month, staff were informed about the closure over email.  Today they took to the Convention Centre to campaign to save St. Mary's Nursing Home
Protesters campaign outside Dáil sitting over the closure of St. Mary's Telford Nursing Home
30/07/20Protester pictured as Campaign group held rally at the Dail (Convention Centre) against closure of St. Mary’s Telford Nursing Home. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

A campaign has started to prevent the closure of Mount Cara, a respite care and residential centre on Redemption Road in Blackpool.

A press conference will take place tomorrow morning (Friday) at 10am in Neptune Stadium. 

The centre, which provides respite for elderly people, is set to close after 30 years, after its Board made an announcement two weeks ago.

Mount Cara was set up by Bishop Michael Murphy with the Mercy Sisters and the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, but is now run by a limited company with charitable status.

In the statement, the Board said: "The new challenges posed by Covid-19, along with the reduction in occupancy have led to this decision. 

"Mount Cara is a residential facility for older people and although it complies with Nursing Home Standards, it is not covered by the Fair Deal Scheme for residents. 

"The increased provision of sheltered housing, home care packages and home help supports have also impacted on the demand for Mount Cara services.

"The Board is in discussion with the HSE about the future placements of residents. We are committed to working with all stakeholders over the next few months during this process."

Thomas Gould, TD for Cork North Central, said he can't understand why "perfectly good" nursing homes are being closed and why the HSE or the state won't intervene and take them over.

"It is a 25 bed unit. Each person has their own individual room. They only have 11 toilets, but compared to other nursing homes that is quite good. In other nursing homes there might be four people sharing a room.

"There is a lady in Mount Cara who is 100 years old. Her family are very concerned that if she is moved out of this facility, [she will miss] her friends. 

"There are also some people there who have no family left alive. They have no one to advocate for them.

"This is a group of older and vulnerable people and to move them at this stage [during a pandemic] doesn't make sense."

Mr Gould says currently the home has 15 residents because no one new was allowed to arrive during Covid. "From what people have told me, there have been people in the community who have looked to come in, but they have not been taken in."

He says considering the threat of Covid-19, it would not make any sense to close this smaller home where everyone has their own room. "The idea of having 100 people in one home, with Covid around, will have to be assessed and reviewed."

He says he has raised the issue with the Minister for Health and is awaiting further explanation from him.

Protesters gathered outside the Convention Centre today to make lobby The Minister for Health

Campaigners protested outside the Dáil sitting today and have emailed Minister Stephen Donnelly in an effort to stop the nursing home closure. File picture.  
Campaigners protested outside the Dáil sitting today and have emailed Minister Stephen Donnelly in an effort to stop the nursing home closure. File picture.  

St Mary's Telford, on the Merrion Road, is a not-for-profit nursing home which looks after older ladies who have visual impairments.

The home was set to close earlier this year after it applied to HIQA to be voluntarily closed. Staff were informed via email on June 3 that the home would be closing by the end of the year, and the email said this was due to its inability to operate at full capacity and inability to secure capital funding to address infrastructural issues.

However, last Friday the directors of St Mary's applied for a High Court order to enter voluntary liquidation. 

The building is owned and was formerly run by the Sisters of Charity. It is now run by a limited designated activity company called Telford.   

The Save St Mary's campaign group claim residents are being moved out at an alarming rate and they are calling on the state to step in to keep St Mary's open.

It is understood that there are only 17 residents left in the home. Previously the home had 35 residents.   

They have also raised concerns about the safety of moving elderly residents to another nursing home during a pandemic. 

They are calling for the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to take immediate action to save both their jobs and the services they provide.  

They have also raised their concerns in an email to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, Acting Chief Medical Officer of NPHET Dr Ronan Glynn and the Chair of the Vulnerable People Subgroup of NPHET.

Shay Ryan, who is an activities coordinator in the home, says staff were unaware of the home would be closing.

"We were told about this closure via email. There was no consultation, there was no meeting with the staff. I only found out about it when I got home from work because I didn't have time to check my emails.

"We were all shocked and disgusted, and very angry as well. We are wondering why [this closure] is happening, particularly after how well we coped with Covid-19."

St Mary's Telford did not record any cases of Covid-19 in residents.

"We just feel it is totally unfair. We want to see the home being taken over by the HSE directly, funded by the HSE, to keep St Mary's going because it provides a service to elderly ladies who have visual impairments, issues around dementia and other cognitive problems.

Mr Ryan also fears what will happen to the residents. "It's heartbreaking to see. Ladies who know the staff, are aware of some of their friends there, and now they are going to be taken away.

"Are they all going to be split up into different places? This is not just an institutional building, it's their home."

Staff 'shocked' to be informed of nursing home closure via email 

Staff also fear for their futures.

"Everybody was going on about the frontline workers and the great work we do, and this is our reward? We lose our jobs? A perfectly functioning nursing home is shut down?"

Liquidators have also been appointed to Caritas Convalescent Centre, which is adjacent to S Mary's. Caritas is run by a separate charitable company to St Mary's, but it was also founded by the Sisters of Charity. Caritas has been closed since March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Is the whole place going to be demolished? What is going to be developed instead? We are right beside St Vincent's," says Mr Ryan.

Another staff member, who wants to remain anonymous, says the announcement via email came as a complete shock.

"There was no consultation process with the staff whatsoever. It was just a shock to everybody.

"This is staff who have worked extra hours, overtime, and none of our residents in the nursing home have had Covid. This is how they thank their staff in the middle of a pandemic?

"The relatives were treated even worse. They just got a phone call, followed days later by a letter in the post. We have relatives now who are supporting the campaign to save St Mary's nursing home from closure."

The staff member fears for the well-being of residents. "We have two residents who have only ever lived in St Mary's. For over 50 years for one of them, and over 60 for the other. Who will advocate for them?

"There is no other nursing home in Ireland who provide this level of care for women with visual impairment and blindness. Our care hours are higher, because of the level of care the residents need."

In a statement, the Board said: "Following the application by the Board of St. Mary’s Centre (Telford), the Company has been placed into liquidation by the High Court which has appointed Baker Tilly as liquidators.   

"This decision was reached by the Board following a number of meetings concerning the funding of the Nursing Home and the Disability Centre – and the ability to acquire the necessary funding to ensure the highest standards of care and regulatory compliance for the health and safety of residents.

"The transfer of residents in the Nursing Home is underway and liquidators Baker Tilly will oversee the winding down of the Company’s operation, across all its facilities, on a managed, orderly and prompt basis to best serve the interests of residents, staff and other key stakeholders.

"This has been a very difficult decision to make but in the interest of the health and safety of our residents and staff, liquidation remained our only course of action.

"The matter is now before the High Court and we will not be making any further comment."

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