AN ELDERLY resident at one of two Stroud cares homes set to be shut says “they are taking our home away”.
Residents, staff and Stroud’s MP have spoken out against the proposal to close Southfield in Park Road and Wyatt House in Mathews Way, Paganhill.
Landlord Gloucestershire County Council will decide whether to go ahead with the plans on July 24 and, if approved, residents would have to move out by this Christmas.
The council said demand for places is falling across the county as more people are choosing to be
supported at home.
If councillors approve the closures, it would mean four of the county’s care homes will have shut down in a year.
Southfield and Wyatt House are both managed by The Orders of St John Care Trust, which runs them as part of the Gloucestershire Care Partnership.
Staff and residents at the care homes, and their families, were sent letters informing them of the potential closures last Tuesday.
There is a 10 to 15 per cent vacancy level across care homes in the Stroud district, the council said, adding that Southfield consistently has more than 15 per cent of its rooms empty with forecasts indicating further decline in the years ahead.
Wyatt House, which specialises in dementia nursing care for the elderly, was built nearly 50 years ago, and the council said it cannot offer the more modern and appropriate specialist care available at other homes in the area.
Once the county council has heard from residents and their families, and the care homes have spoken with their employees, the GCC cabinet will be asked to decide whether or not to close the homes.
If the closures are approved, residents will be assigned a dedicated social worker to help them and their families through the transition.
Beryl Owen, a resident at Southfield, said; “It hurts us all. They are taking our home away from us all. We have called this our home and we love it here. It’s not just us this affects, it affects our children and friends.”
Southfield has 34 beds in total and Wyatt House has 30.
The nearest The Orders of St John care homes to them are The Elms in Stonehouse and Henlow Court in Dursley.
Councillor Roger Wilson, cabinet member for adult social care commissioning at the county council, said: “These are proposals that reflect what we know older people truly want and that is to stay at home for as long as possible and be supported there.
Care homes Trevone House, in Gloucester, and Townsend House, in Mitcheldean, closed last year for the same reasons.
Dan Hayes, chief executive of The Orders of St John Care Trust, said: “We have worked with the county council to consider the challenges at these homes at length and sadly we have been unable to find a solution that keeps these two homes either financially viable or fit for purpose.”
Stroud MP David Drew visited Southfield on Friday to discuss the situation with management after his office took several calls from distressed residents and relatives who said they feel like they are being “treated like cattle”.
“It seems that this decision is being rushed, which is particularly distressing for elderly vulnerable people,” Mr Drew said.
“There has been a lack of investment in these homes but I am concerned that closing them could prove to be a false economy.
“I am particularly worried that the closure of the homes will mean there is a lack of provision in Stroud town which is easily accessible for loved ones, and a lack of specialist provision for people with dementia.
“I would like to see reassurance that better alternative provision will be made.”
Also affected are the employees of the care homes who OSJCT says will be helped to find a job with the trust elsewhere in the county.
However, Chad Pollard, one of an estimated 50 affected staff at Wyatt House, says many of his colleagues feel let down.
“OSJCT stresses that this is only a proposal and that there is plenty of alternative care work across the district, as long as we can be flexible, but we cannot see how OSJCT can retain all staff from both houses. Due to the uncertainty, many are already interviewing for positions elsewhere,” he said.
Mr Pollard said the level of care and facilities at Wyatt House is more than adequate for the residents.
“Yes, Wyatt House was built in the 1960s, but it’s still going strong,” he said. “Its circular building has been designed beautifully for dementia patients, with an enclosed garden in its centre that acts as a communal meeting place.
“There is no ‘wrong’ way to go like most other care homes; there’s no danger of walking into the wrong corridor with nothing but locked doors.”
“Most importantly, Wyatt House exudes an atmosphere of genuine warmth and love which is vital in a specialist dementia home,”
“You do not need en-suite facilities to provide fantastic care. For residents with advanced dementia, what is most important is a face they recognise, feeling loved and comfortable, feeling free and accepted.”
Staff, residents and their families were given notice of the planned closures, in order to discuss their concerns with representatives of the Partnership, at a meeting held last Wednesday.
Stephen Hobday, whose mother suffers with dementia and is a resident of Southfield, was not convinced by the assurances offered.
“The whole experience so far has been awful. The Partnership remained silent as a representative from an outside community care organisation led the meeting before questions were allowed,” he said.
My mother lived most of her life on a road around the corner so Southfield’s location is both in familiar surroundings for her and convenient for the family.
“If occupancy rates should be 90 to 95 per cent and at Southfield it’s currently 83 per cent, that’s only a deficit of three residents.
“It’s interesting that the Partnership is not proposing to renovate or build a facility for the immediate area.
“The spokesperson argued that people increasingly want to stay in their own homes, but what about the sense of community and constant companionship that a care home offers?”
“They say the decision will be led by the residents and staff as to how their final decision will be made, but closure seems a forgone conclusion.”