Belfast Telegraph

41 jobs to go as care home to be closed by new owners

By Clare Weir

A care home in Portstewart - already saved from closure after the collapse of the Southern Cross group last year - is to be shut down by its new owners over alleged health and safety concerns.

Over 40 jobs will be lost and just over 50 residents will have to relocate.

The Montague Care Home, a purpose built 53-bed care home offering dementia, nursing and residential care, is run by the Durham-based HC-One healthcare agency. HC-One took over the running of the premises from troubled Southern Cross Healthcare in November 2011.

However, last week it told residents' families and staff about plans to close the facility due to "significant challenges in the building environment".

Some staff at the home had only taken up positions in recent weeks and jobs were still being advertised online as late as last Friday, a day after the closure announcement was made.

Workers have been put on 30 days' notice, while residents have been told they can stay for a further three months.

One woman who's 82-year-old father is a resident in the home said the announcement came as a complete shock.

"When Southern Cross was bailed out by HC-One last year, we thought it would be great," she said. "Things really improved, new staff were taken on, the manager Elaine Allen made a lot of positive changes, things were getting done, it became a better place.

"The families thought they were being called to a meeting about further improvements so to hear that the home was closing was a complete shock.

"Now my fears are for the residents, who will basically have to go to any bed that can take them, and the staff, who either left good jobs to go to Montague or who have been there for a while, and who formed bonds with and cared about the residents and made a difference to their lives.

"There will be huge pressure on families to try and find places for their relatives and on staff to try and find new jobs before Christmas. It seems to us like this is the end product of privatisation of the healthcare system - the home was not making enough money, so HC-One do not have enough money to fix the home, so the residents and staff have to find somewhere else to go."

A spokeswoman for the home said that the decision to close the home had been "difficult".

"Although improvements have been made to the home since it was taken over, and despite ongoing efforts, it is now clear that the building is not suitable to enable the standard of care that is required," she said. "It has therefore become necessary to take the difficult decision to close the home. Our team is already working with residents and their families, and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to ensure that residents are offered places at other care homes of their choice, where they will be cared for safely and comfortably.

"Our team will also be working with the relevant authorities, as well of course with residents and their families, to reduce the disruption from this transition as much as possible.

"These tough decisions have only been made in order to ensure that the standards of care provided are the most appropriate they can be."