Elderly and vulnerable people should not be at the mercy of big business’s endless demand for profit. Residential care should be brought fully back into public hands.

On Wednesday 23rd August, for the first time since it was established in 2005, the Regulations and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) intervened to close a privately-owned and managed nursing home, the Ashbrooke Nursing Home, operating on the edge of Enniskillen.

Forty elderly residents, many suffering with dementia, will now have to be rehoused by the Western Health & Social Care Trust (WHSCT), which has warned that they may have to be relocated to Derry when the home closes due to the inadequacy of public domiciliary care provision.

The RQIA, which monitors standards in health and social care providers, claimed closure was necessary as there was a “serious risk to life”. They found dirty equipment, a very strong odour of faeces and urine and reported patients looked unkempt with unwashed hair and dirty clothes. Records showed one patient had lost six kilos in a week but that management had done nothing in response.

Ashbrooke is operated by Essex-based privateer Runwood Homes, which runs 67 care homes across England and Northern Ireland. Earlier this year, the company declared annual profits of £8.3 million, although this was reduced by a one-off ‘revaluation’ of property. Profits had actually risen to about £13.6 million from £12.3 million the year previous.

Elderly and vulnerable people should not be at the mercy of big business’s endless demand for profit. Residential care should be brought fully back into public hands, with investment to meet need, fully-trained staff on a living wage, and compensation paid to private sector owners only on the basis of proven need.

By Donal O’Cofaigh

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