Call for trusts to claw back fees after scandal-hit Northern Ireland care home firm turns £4m profit
Disgraced care home operator Runwood Homes made a profit of £3.9m last year, it can be revealed.
The firm raked in millions of pounds in 2017/18 despite the fact a number of its homes across Northern Ireland were the subject of enforcement action by health inspectors.
The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) deemed conditions at Ashbrooke Care Home in Enniskillen so dangerous that it shut the facility with immediate effect in August 2017.
It has also emerged that none of the health trusts here have ever recouped any of the fees paid to the firm even when patients have suffered appalling neglect in facilities owned by Runwood Homes.
All the trusts have performance clauses written into their contracts with care home providers. This allows them to claw back money if a care home fails to deliver a satisfactory service to their patients.
Aidan Hanna from NI Patient Voice explained: "If a trust is concerned about the performance of a care home provider, they can send a letter detailing those concerns.
"The second stage is followed up with a formal performance notice and then finally the trust is entitled to recoup 20% of monies paid.
"However, the Southern Trust is the only trust to have ever written such a letter and that was on October 31, 2016, and it was in relation to Dunmurry Manor and no money was ever paid back."
Mr Hanna continued: "It's a disgrace that a company that has been found to be providing poor care in many of their homes in Northern Ireland can make such a significant profit.
"We continue to call for an inquiry into care provided at all Runwood Homes facilities in Northern Ireland.
"This inquiry should look at the monies paid by health trusts and residents.
"Refunds for poor care provided by private nursing home companies could be spent by trusts to help alleviate our long hospital waiting lists."
According to Runwood Homes' latest accounts, its turnover grew by 7.3% in 2017/18. However, its overall profit was down from £13.7m the previous year.
The company said it is "passionate about providing the highest possible care for clients" and invested £8.4m in providing new and upgraded facilities.
It also said the fees paid by local authorities "suggest a lack of appetite to invest" in care homes as annual fee increases have not been sufficient to negate the effect of the living wage and pension contribution requirements.
Despite this, Runwood Homes has continued to make a healthy profit, prompting anger from People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll.
He said: "News of the Runwood Homes making £3.9m in profit whilst residents of their homes have been neglected is a slap in the face for all those families who have had loved ones in the homes.
"It also is a classic example of how ordinary people are put last in the pecking order when it comes to protecting the profits of big organisations.
"We urgently need a publicly run care home system to ensure that a scandal like this doesn't happen again."
Runwood Homes has consistently made headlines for its repeated failure to meet basic standards in a number of its homes.
Last year the Commissioner for Older People published a damning report into the conditions at one of the company's facilities, Dunmurry Manor.
In particular, Eddie Lynch was scathing about the lack of investment by the company and highlighted the fact that staff had to buy their own blood pressure monitors and the sub-quality incontinence pads provided by Runwood Homes.
In September last year the Belfast Telegraph revealed the health service had paid out almost £44m to the failing care home provider in just three years.