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Nursing home under threat of closure over safety concerns

The owners of a Co Kilkenny nursing home which lost its HIQA registration last November because of concerns over governance, management and safety have said they plan to carry out any necessary refurbishment works “as soon as practical” and re-register the facility later this year.

The HSE stepped in to run Aperee Nursing Home in Callan in November after the home had its registration cancelled by HIQA, but announced last week that it could no longer safely run the operation.

It also said that it is putting in place “appropriate arrangements as regards ensuring alternative long-term placements in suitable settings for all residents of the nursing home”.

However, the move has been met with shock and dismay in the area, where a petition has been launched urging all involved to keep the nursing home open.

Staff say that there is relatively little to be done to the nursing home to make it compliant with HIQA safety rules, particularly around fire safety, and that much of the work has already been done.

Maintenance officer, David Ronan, said staff were unhappy the home was deemed ‘unsafe’

“A lot of the staff were not notified of what was about to happen in the short term or the long term,” maintenance officer David Ronan said today, of a meeting held last week with HSE management.

He added that workers were not happy with any notion that the building is “unsafe” for use.

“At the moment there are 70% of the fire works complete,” he said of the necessary fire safety upgrade.

“There’s roughly 30% to complete, which isn’t a whole lot. There was a plan put in place by the HSE and the owners to commence the fire works on 29 March… With a scheduled work time of five weeks in total,” Mr Ronan said.

“As far as I’m aware the total cost was €200,000 which is a very, very small amount of money to get the home fully fire-compliant.”

‘Huge shock’

Senior healthcare assistant Kate McDermott has worked at the nursing home for almost 17 years and said the news of the planned closure by the HSE had come as a huge shock.

“These residents, this is their home. They’ve sold their houses, they’ve sold their land, some of them have lived here for more than 10 years. This is their home.”

She said the families were told “at very short notice” last week of the HSE’s plans to pull out of the home.

“Families are scrabbling around trying to find beds, ringing around, all trying to co-ordinate with each other. It’s a bit of a disaster, to be honest,” Ms McDermott added.

The petition is up at about 400 signatures at the moment, all from people calling for the nursing home to stay open.

Senior healthcare assistant Kate McDermott said there is confusion about the future of the home

“The wider community, obviously, are very concerned for their family members. We’re all local, we work here, we live here,” she said.

Ms McDermott said there’s “a lot of confusion” at the moment about the future of the facility.

“These residents trust us, they know us, we’re their family in a lot of cases. We’ve been through Covid with them, we’ve been through flu outbreaks with them, we help them up in the mornings, we help them to bed at night, we do everything else in between,” she said.

“I stay up with them at night if they can’t sleep, I hold their hand if they’re crying, we’ve been through a lot with them and you can’t replicate that kind of bond and that trust when people are sent somewhere else.”

Nursing home chef Joanie McCormack, who has worked there since it opened as Strathmore Lodge in 2005, said all were “very sad, very hurt” and were not expecting the latest news.

“We’re very sad for them. We’re a little family. The residents are like our family, we put them to bed, everyone here, they put them to bed, they get them up, we feed them, we do everything with them,” Ms McCormack said.

She added: “We just think it’s very sad that we have to shut the doors here. If there’s anyone out there or anything that can help us, we want to stay here.”

Chef Joanie McCormack said everyone was ‘very sad’ about the HSE’s announcement

Over 50 staff are also concerned about their jobs, she said, “I’ve done nothing else only nursing home, so where do I go, at the end of the day?”

HSE Head of Quality and Safety in the south-east community healthcare sector, Stephanie Lynch, said staff had done a “sterling job” in keeping the nursing home open with the HSE since it lost its registration last November.

“We’ve come to a point that we can’t actually ensure the safety of the residents because there are concerns raised by HIQA over a number of months that haven’t been addressed by the owner,” Ms Lynch said.

‘Difficult situation’

“We now have come to the position where we need to ask people, according to their will and preference, to move to alternative placements within the area, to registered nursing homes, for their health and safety,” she added.

Ms Lynch said it’s a “really difficult situation” and not anything that anyone wanted.

“If those concerns were addressed, then there’s a possibility that this nursing home could re-open in the future and the community of Callan would have their nursing home.

“But currently we’re in a position, for the health and safety of those residents, that we have come to this and we’re working with them to find alternative placements.”

Concerns include staffing levels and “some fire concerns around the building” that need to be addressed, she said.

The Aperee Living group changed ownership last November after three of its seven nursing homes – the others being in Ballygunner in Co Waterford and Belgooly in Kinsale, Co Cork – also lost their HIQA registrations.

Paul Kingston of the new ownership consortium told RTÉ News, in a statement, that the plan for the Callan facility “is to carry out the necessary works as soon as practical and re-register the home as a nursing home in 2024”.

Nursing Homes Ireland said in a statement it was not commenting on the specifics of this case, but that in general, we need to celebrate the fact that people are living longer, and plan services accordingly.

“With over 70 nursing home closures in the last five years, we are witnessing residents losing what is their home and loss of vital nursing home care nationwide.

“There is immediate requirement for a clear policy on care of our ageing population, commitment to work collaboratively to cease further closures, and increased funding to ensure the sustainability of the nursing home sector as a vital part of a well-functioning health service.”

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