NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
Councillor refuses to comment on questionable complimentary remarks for care home company
March 14, 2018 – Honest, open, transparent. That is the kind of country our politicians and others would have us believe they would like Scotland to be in the 21st century.
But they don’t. Or at least many of them don’t.
Take for example Iain McLaren, an SNP councillor in Dumbarton, who last year said Meallmore would be excellent purchasers of Langcraigs Residential Home in Dumbarton, which was being sold off by West Dunbartonshire Council.
Some councillors would rather have seen the Langcraigs buildings/land at Gooseholm, off Townend Road, allocated for social housing.
But not Cllr McLaren. He vouched for the good name of Meallmore, who have residential homes in other parts of Scotland, mainly in the north.
It would be a good idea to sell off Langcraigs for £1 million or thereabouts and send the old folk, along with the residents of other local residential homes in Dumbarton and the Vale, such as Dalreoch, up to the back of beyond.
That had been Labour’s idea when they ran the council.
Despite expert advice that old people were best served by keeping them in the community and interacting with the community, they had a super residential home built at Crosslet, which is far from central or in any way conducive to community interaction.
What must have it been like up there behind the timber houses when the Beast from the East arrived earlier this month?
Despite the fact that the new site was in the foothills of the Long Crags, and that it would be difficult to reach for both for visiting motorists and pedestrians, Crosslet was deemed to be desirable. Langcraigs would be sold off.
This was despite the fact that a builder had made a higher offer than Meallmore.
Labour are so proud of this that they were narked when the SNP administration boasted at the Budget Meeting in Clydebank that one of their achievements was to have officially opened the new Crosslet home last year.
I overheard a Labour member say: “Aye, but who built it?”
It was then during a break in that meeting that I decided to ask Councillor McLaren if he would care to answer the question I put to him six months ago about the sale of Langcraigs. He had never replied to my e mail.
How could you say that about Meallmore, I asked, when all you had to do was google their name to discover if it was true.
He seemed startled, almost as if he had never in his political life before been asked a question by a journalist.
Did you, West Dunbartonshire Council and the Health and Social Care Partnership do any research into the background of the care home company that offered to buy Langcraigs. Surely you must have done?
At this point his embarrassed colleague Councillor Marie McNair almost disappeared under the table.
Quite apart from the council passing up the opportunity to use this site to build social housing, I suggested it was astonishing that the Health and Social Care Partnership, an arm’s length quango in partnership with the council, had Meallmore as being fit a proper company to take care of elderly residents.
A cursory look at their record in the care field is deeply disturbing.
All they had to do was Google Meallmore’s name into their computer to discover that this appeared on BBC Scotland’s news programmes last year:
An Aberdeenshire care home has apologised after an elderly resident was left severely bruised from a fall.
It is believed Jill Symmonds, 78, fell from the toilet while suffering a seizure at Sunnybank Care Home, Cruden Bay.
Mrs Symmonds’ family claims that no-one from the care home called to let them know about the incident.
Meallmore Ltd, which runs the care home, said the lack of contact was “unacceptable”.
Mrs Symmonds’ granddaughter, Emma Stephen, published a Facebook post condemning the incident, which has been shared more than 1,000 times.
In the post, she said her family did not find out about the fall until nine hours after Mrs Symmonds had been taken to hospital, and even then, they were only told after calling Sunnybank themselves.
She also said her grandmother, who suffers from dementia and epilepsy, had previously broken both her legs in separate incidents due to being left alone on the toilet.
The fall left Mrs Symmonds with two black eyes and severe bruising around her face.
Unfortunately, this is not the only record of shocking incidents at this company’s care homes.
There are records of a 91-year-old resident being attacked by another resident in a Meallmore home in Inverness, receiving nine injuries to their head.
And of a 32-year-old with mental health issues lay dead for up to a week in their flat while allegedly being supervised by Meallmore care staff.
There was also publicly available a report of an incident when a resident with Parkinson’s disease was humiliated and bullied by staff at a Meallmore residential home in Aberdeen.
I wrote at the time: “How the H&SCP can approve this organisation to take care of some of our most vulnerable elderly resident’s beggars belief. This decision to sell this land to this company needs reviewed before legal documents are signed.”
But there were no further communications on this.
Langcraigs residents were moved to the new £10million Crosslet House, which also replaces Willox Park and Dalreoch House.
The home, which boasts a modern cinema room, outdoor terrace, internet rooms, gardens, hair salon and nail bar, provides 84 beds for elderly residents, particularly those with dementia.
The council and the councillors clammed up, although Councillor Jim Bollan did say the whole thing was “scandalous”.
But then he had been critical from the outset of West Dunbartonshire Council for centralising their own services and then allowing the private care sector to move in and “make a profit from the care of our elderly”.
Council officers however recommend that the authority’s infrastructure, regeneration and economic development committee approve the sale of Langcraigs.
Despite the new super home, the reason given was that there is still a requirement for more care home beds locally.
Cllr Bollan, who is now a member of the Community Party, said: “This proposal by the health and social care partnership stinks to high heaven. Once more the public are being duped into believing the argument that big is better and the centralisation of council care services for the elderly is good for them.
“This has been thrown back in our faces through them allowing the private care sector to take over Langcraigs and make a profit from the care of our elderly. Scandalous.”
At the Budget Meeting in the council chamber, in relation to another matter entirely, Councillor McLaren prefaced his remarks with these words: “We are determined to be an open and accessible Council …”
Really? I think it’s time he made a statement about his support for Meallmore, which has brought so much misery to so many.
Perhaps he will find it under that carpet that so many politicians use when they wish to cover-up questionable matters these days.