Consternation over St Drostans closure

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THE CLOSURE of Brechin’s only council-run care home was met with anger by members of the City of Brechin and District Community Council.

The group met last Tuesday when it was decided to contact the authority to halt the decanting of the remaining residents until a meeting was arranged with the appropriate council officials and the group.

The announcement came as a shock to the town, as there had been no indication that the home was to close as it had recently received praise for the high level of service it provided in a Care Inspectorate report.

However, concerns were raised in the report over the lack of en-suite facilities and the council’s funding crisis has been blamed for the decision to close the building.

Community councillor and the Rev. of the St Andrew’s Episcopal Church David Mumford deplored the speed with which the decision has been implemented, the lack of consultation and the way in which the process has been handled.

He said: “When a home is closed and residents are moved this significantly increases the death rate amongst the residents who are moved.

“It also makes it more difficult for the family to stay in touch.

“The argument about the building not being fit for purpose is a red herring.

“The criteria for new build care homes keep being raised but existing care homes are allowed great latitude as to how they work towards the new standards.

“St Drostan’s has not fully met new build standards for some years and could have continued for many years to come.

“This would give ample time for the council to have commissioned a replacement building that would fully meet current standards.

“How far was the decision finance driven? It can be cheaper for a council to contract out residential services as wages are less.

“Council care homes are usually unionised and pay reasonable wages and ensure adequate training for staff.”

Angus Council’s convener of social work and health, Councillor Glennis Middleton, and director of social work and health, Robert Peat, met with representatives of the community on Friday to discuss the work being done with residents of the home and their families.

After the meeting Councillor Middleton said: “This was a helpful and productive meeting where we were able to reassure the community representatives that our outstanding priority remains finding suitable alternative accommodation of their choice for all the residents in the home, in consultation with their families.

“We are in constant and regular touch with them as this process continues.”

She added: “We took the decision to begin the process of closing St Drostan’s with much regret, but we have known for quite some time that the building is no longer fit for purpose, despite the excellent care given to the residents by our staff.

“Even if the considerable costs of work were not a factor, the Victorian building does not lend itself to the improvements needed, particularly the provision of en-suite facilities.

“I am very surprised, indeed shocked, recently to read that some members of the community appear to feel it appropriate for us to continue to have elderly and frail residents sharing toilets, which is an issue involving both human dignity and health.

“I also feel that it has been inappropriate for such personal matters, involving a small number of individuals, to be discussed publicly in this way.”

“I have nothing but praise for the way our excellent members of staff have been working to assist the process of change for the residents at St Drostans.

“Similarly, we are working with our staff to find appropriate alternative employment for them within the council.”

Feeling that the community council have been misrepresented in these comments Grahame Lockhart, convener of the City of Brechin and District Community Council, said: “I am very disappointed that Councillor Middleton, convener of health and social work, has chosen to misrepresent a genuine concern to discuss the closure of St Drostan’s House in Brechin as the community council’s wish to have vulnerable people living in less than adequate facilities.

“I believe it was perfectly within our right to ask that the closure be halted until we had such a discussion and that the residents of Brechin would expect the community council to show an interest in this matter.

“Whilst the reasons for the decision and the speed of its implementation were explained, Dr Robert Peat, director of health and social work, conceded that some contact could have been made with the community council to discuss the reasons for closure.

“A report on that meeting is being prepared for circulation within the community council and as widely as members consider necessary.”