Care home bosses have come under fire from staff and relatives for failing to give full reasons for the proposed closure of Seton Hall in Tweedmouth.
Seton Care, the Berwickshire Housing Association subsidiary company which runs the 47-bed home, has claimed that a lack of demand for residential care, high maintenance costs and increased demands to improve facilities mean that it is no longer sustainable.
However, those claims were called into question at a packed public meeting in Berwick on Tuesday night at which the strength of opposition to the proposal was made clear.
It also emerged that while Seton Hall staff and residents were told the news last Monday, homecare service users read it first in the Berwick Advertiser.
Ruth Wilson, speaking on behalf of homecare staff, said: “We’ve had lots of residents crying on our shoulders in the last few days, especially those who read about it in the paper.
“As a community we are entitled to choices of care. BHA have tried to take away those choices. All of our service users have stated that they want to keep the service and their carers and not change to another care provider.”
Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who has met staff and family members and spoken to senior management at BHA, said: “This is a deeply distressing situation for all concerned. I will continue to communicate and work with all parties concerned so we can find the best solution for every resident and for the dedicated staff teams.”
She said she would also investigate management claims that Seton Hall is under-occupied, a notion hotly disputed by staff who point out that four rooms are left empty for respite care.
Mrs Trevelyan added: “We have a rapidly ageing population here in Northumberland & Seton Hall and its staff enjoy an excellent reputation so this seems somewhat counter-intuitive.
“As part of my investigations, I will be exploring how much home care is being promoted as an alternative to residential care, to make sure that our most vulnerable elderly are receiving the most appropriate support.”
Mayor Hazel Bettison, who has a healthcare background, said: “There is a duty of care to all the residents and I know for a fact that the beds left in Berwick will not all be suitable to meet the needs of Seton Hall’s residents. We need to know what the Care Qualty Commission thinks about this.”
Councillor Gordon McLean added: “There needs to be a full risk assessment of every patient before any changes are made.”
There were also numerous questions from the 100-plus audience which had squeezed into the William Elder Building. No-one from BHA was in attendance and the company declined to add to last week’s statement.
Among them, it was asked why Seton Care was pulling out just months after securing planning permission for a new building and why it had declined the tender for home care work after being named as the preferred bidder. Others demanded to know who owns the land and what the intention is for it.
Staff also demanded to know how Little Reivers and the sheltered housing elements of Seton Care will continue as normal.
Many also expressed unease that an agreement has been reached for Careline to take over the home care service.
There are 36 residents at Seton Hall and 66 staff. BHA has begun a 30-day consultation on its proposals.
Hundreds have signed a petition calling for the home to be saved. A demonstration in Berwick is planned for June 6.