Further 29 deaths from Covid-19 and the scandal of Langcraigs Care Home


Cllrs McLaren and McColl and Langcraigs being demolished. Jill Symmonds with two black eyes and severe bruising around her face.

By Bill Heaney

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed 14,655 people have tested positive for Covid-19, an increase of 61 from yesterday.

There are 1,447 patients in hospital with a suspected or confirmed case (up 20).  Of these:

  • 969 cases are confirmed;
  • 478 cases are suspected;
  • and 59 patients being treated in intensive care (down four).

More than 3,408 people have been discharged from hospital after receiving treatment for the virus since 5 March.

A further 29 people who tested positive have died, taking the total to 2,134 deaths in Scotland by that measure.

Meanwhile, four residents have died after contracting corona virus at a care home owned by a company which was given a £250,000 cut in the purchase price of Langcraigs Care Home in Townend Road, Dumbarton, from SNP-run West Dunbartonshire Council, coronavirus.

Meallmore, which operates the Crimond House facility in Aberdeenshire, said there had been a number of cases of Covid-19.

However, Meallmore said the home continued to follow “rigorous infection control procedures”.

The operator said further testing of residents after April’s deaths had shown there were currently no positive cases at the premises.

A statement on behalf of the home said: “The health and safety of our residents is our top priority and we have taken all measures possible to minimise the potential outbreak of Covid-19.

“There were a number of cases at Crimond House and very sadly four residents died following a positive Covid-19 test.

“Where possible a family member was present and our thoughts and condolences are with their family and friends during this very difficult time.”

The statement added: “We support our staff who have developed relationships with our residents and their families and continue to follow rigorous infection control procedures in line with Health Protection Scotland guidance.”

Meallmore’s relationships with residents and their families has not always been good.

I wrote a piece here two years ago asking why they had been sold Langcraigs at such a low price. It was below £1 million and about a quarter of a million less than a construction firm had tendered for it.

Cllr Iain McLaren who spoke up for the company at the meeting where the price was agreed.

He said Meallmore would be excellent purchasers of Langcraigs, despite the fact that there was a social housing shortage in the community at that time.

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.

Labour don’t get off the hook here. That plan had been Labour’s idea when they ran the council.

Willox Park care home and sheltered housing at the heart of the community in Dumbarton. Pictures by Bill Heaney

This was despite expert advice that old people were best served by keeping them in the community and interacting with the community.

They had for £10 million a super residential home built at Crosslet, which is far from central or in any way conducive to community interaction.

Apart from that it looks more like a headquarters for the Stasi than an old people’s home.

Labour were so proud of this project 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 one 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 before about the sale of Langcraigs. He had never replied to my e mail.

How could you be so complimentary about Meallmore, I asked, when all you had to do was google their name to discover if allegations made against it by the relative of a resident it were true.

He seemed startled, almost as if he had never in his political life before been asked a question by a journalist. Maybe he hadn’t.

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, I asked?

At this point his embarrassed colleague Councillor Marie McNair almost disappeared under the table. She is now vice chair of the Health and Social Care Partnership, which has special responsibility for

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 decided Meallmore was 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 these councillors – and officials – had to do was Google Meallmore’s name into their computer to discover that this report appeared on BBC Scotland’s news programmes last year:

The fall left Jill Symmonds with two black eyes and severe bruising around her face. Pictures by Bill Heaney

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 lying 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 these disclosures. West Dunbartonshire Council ignored them. They remained as silent about this as they have about the recent unacceptable high number of deaths at Crosslet Care Home.

Langcraigs residents were moved to the new £10 million Crosslet House, which has now also replaced Willox Park and Dalreoch House.

I asked a number of staff and relatives of residents how they felt about this. They said the home, which boasts a modern cinema room, outdoor terrace, internet rooms, gardens, hair salon and nail bar and provides 84 beds for elderly residents, particularly those with dementia wasn’t as good as their previous much smaller community homes.

It was too far away, awkward – and expensive – to get to and there were added dangers about elderly people having to cross the busy A82 to reach it from the bus stop at the foot of Argyll Avenue.

Officially, the council and the majority of 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 social care services and then allowing the private care sector to move in and “make a profit from the care of our elderly”.

Council officers however recommended that the authority’s infrastructure, regeneration and economic development committee approve the sale of Langcraigs.

Although, and despite the existence new “super” home, the reason given was that there was still a requirement for more care home beds locally.

There still is, but the word on the street is that people in West Dunbartonshire are being extremely circumspect about placing their relatives in a care home – any care home.

Cllr Bollan, who is a member of the Community Party, said at the time of the sale: “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? Once again, West Dunbartonshire Council has failed miserably in its quest to be credible.

Since publishing this investigation and other revelatory articles about other inefficiencies and questionable behaviour in relation to procurement, the council have withdrawn my media accreditation and proceeded to apply censorship to The Democrat.

The Labour Group, Tories and so-called “Independent” members of the council appear to have contracted amnosia – the loss of their sense of their sense of taste and smell – and have done nothing to right the scandalous wrongs of this anti-democratic situation.

It appears they are content with the SNP thumbing their noses at press freedom and refusing to be held to account for what they are doing in our name.

Sadly, it may have taken the corona virus pandemic to shine a new spotlight into the dark corner of the care homes business in West Dunbartonshire and nationwide.

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