Failing care homes firm Runwood was paid £44m by NHS in last three years
The health service has paid out almost £44m to a failing care home provider in just three years, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Runwood Homes has raked in the eye-watering sum despite repeated claims by health trusts, residents' relatives and even its own staff that conditions in a series of the company's homes are unsafe and undignified.
The figure has been revealed as issues at another two Runwood Homes-owned care homes have been highlighted.
Last week, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Runwood Homes had been forced to close the nursing unit at Rose Court in Ballymena due to staff shortages.
The daughter of one resident said staff at the facility told her they had decided to quit their jobs as they felt management at the home had not addressed concerns they had raised over the safety of residents there.
According to figures provided by the health trusts, Runwood Homes has received more than £4m over the last three years for services provided at Rose Court.
Meanwhile, the latest published inspection report of Clifton Nursing Home in north Belfast has revealed an array of issues at the facility.
Management at the home was ordered to an urgent meeting with the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) last month amid serious concerns about the facility.
An inspector discovered residents were expected to share underwear and socks, while it also emerged there was a shortage of cleaning equipment such as mops and disinfectant.
The company has repeatedly defended its services and said it has confidence in a senior management team put in place to drive up standards at its facilities across Northern Ireland.
It has also said it works quickly to address any concerns raised by RQIA inspectors and provides "person-centred care on a daily basis".
The cost of placing people in Runwood Homes is revealed less than three months after the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland criticised the firm for not spending enough to provide proper equipment for staff or residents at Dunmurry Manor.
In a scathing report looking at conditions at the home, Eddie Lynch criticised Runwood Homes for not providing proper continence pads for residents, leaving worried relatives to buy them instead.
He also revealed that staff at the home had to buy their own blood pressure monitors as the ones provided by Runwood Homes, currently at the centre of a police probe into conditions at the home, were broken.
Meanwhile, inspections of Rose Court Nursing Home in Ballymena and Clifton Care Home in April and June respectively found that residents at both facilities were expected to share underwear.
Julieann McNally, whose grandmother was 89-years-old when she admitted to Dunmurry Manor in January 2016, said she was shocked at the amount of money handed to Runwood Homes.
"I'm absolutely horrified to hear this," she said. "These figures are even worse on the back of evidence that staff are on low wages, they aren't getting opportunities to train, residents are sharing net underwear and blood pressure cuffs are broken.
"I just don't know how any of this is allowed to happen.
"My family and the other families of Dunmurry Manor residents have been through so much and we're still fighting for answers and for people to be accountable and now to be told that Runwood has been paid so much money when it is repeatedly in trouble for the care it delivers, it's horrendous."
The total cost to the NHS of services provided by Runwood Homes can be revealed today after the Northern Trust released the amount of money it has paid to the company since 2015.
It had initially refused to release the figures in response to a Freedom of Information request, stating they were commercially sensitive.
However, the Belfast Telegraph challenged this decision on the basis that the public was entitled to know how much money Runwood Homes has received from the health service despite repeatedly failing to deliver safe and effective care.
It can now be revealed that the Northern Trust spent almost £20m since 2015/16 for services provided by Runwood Homes.
Last year, the RQIA took the unprecedented step of closing Ashbrooke Care Home in Enniskillen after an inspection found failings posed a serious risk to life.
The Western Trust paid £1.09m to Runwood Homes in just two years for services provided at Ashbrooke until it was closed last August.
In relation to Clifton Nursing Home, the firm has received more than £11.5m from the Belfast Trust since January 2014, almost £700,000 from the Northern Trust over the past three years and £577,000 from the South Eastern Trust over the past decade.
The health service has also paid more than £4.6m to Runwood Homes for people to live at Dunmurry Manor since it opened in 2014, while the company has received in excess of £160,000 from the trusts for caring for people at Glenabbey Manor, another Runwood Homes facility, over the past three years.
The home, which provides nursing care for people with dementia, was ordered to stop admitting new residents in February of this year.
The action was taken by the RQIA because it was so concerned about the safety of residents at the Newtownabbey Home.
The money handed over to Runwood Homes by the trusts is even more significant given the fact the owner of the firm, Gordon Sanders, is reported to have taken a payout worth up to £7m last year after profits surged.
The self-made entrepreneur and his family's wealth was estimated at £193m in last year's Sunday Times Rich List.
A spokeswoman from Runwood Homes said the company continually strives to deliver the very highest standards of care at all its homes.
"The Board of Directors for Runwood Homes have total confidence in the senior management team overseeing service delivery in Northern Ireland and the excellent team of Home Managers providing person-centred care on a daily basis," she said.