Published: 05:00, 26 November 2021
| Updated: 15:37, 26 November 2021
A dementia sufferer was given just one day to search for a new place to live after her care home made the shock decision to shut down.
Elliott House in Herne Bay closed for good last Friday, four days after Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors paid the Reculver Road service its first visit in two years.
Bosses from the business – which cared for those over the age of 65 and people with dementia – remain tight-lipped about the reasons for the decision, simply saying their issues stem from the pandemic.
Most of its 46 residents were only given two days’ notice to leave - but one, 90-year-old Belinda Meteyard, did not know she had to leave until Thursday, November 18.
Her son, Jez Meteyard, recalled: “Social services should have told me, but I slipped between the cracks of two departments handling it.
“I arrived on the Thursday morning to take my mum to a hospital appointment.
“The whole place was full of cars, and a lady who was leaving with her granddaughter said she was going to her new home.
“I was absolutely fuming – I couldn’t believe it. When I placed my mum there it took me a good month of trying to find the right one – but this time I had to find one in 24-hours.
“We came back from the hospital in the afternoon, and I manically tried to find somewhere to place her.”
A loved one of a resident at the site described the closure as “very sudden”, while another said two days’ notice was “no time” to search for a new place for his father to move into.
Kent County Council (KCC) says it had “recently been working with the CQC and Elliott House to identify shortfalls and necessary improvements in the delivery of the service”, before the business decided to lock its doors.
Mr Meteyard stresses his mother, who is a wheelchair user, had enjoyed living at Elliott House, but recalls families were left in “disbelief and anger” by the situation.
“It was amazingly stressful. My mum had only been there since April,” Mr Meteyard added.
“She’s got dementia, so she’s a bit confused but OK, but there were quite a few residents who were in tears and very confused.
“The staff were in tears, too – their jobs are gone.
“There was disbelief and anger among families over the way the residents had been treated.”
Mr Meteyard managed to move his mother to a care home in Upper Harbledown, Canterbury.
KCC states that all of the home’s residents were moved “to suitable accommodation by 4pm on Friday”.
“The owner informed the council that the business was set to close on Friday, November 19, and requested us to re-home all 46 residents,” as spokesman added.
“We are aware that this has come as a shock and is a worrying occurrence for the residents and their families and would like to reassure them that, as always, their safety and quality of care is our utmost priority.”
The CQC’s head of inspections, Hazel Roberts, says Elliott House was visited by inspectors on Monday, November 22.
Following the assessment, she states bosses “informed us of their intention to close the service”.
"There was disbelief and anger among families over the way the residents had been treated..."
“We will publish our findings from the inspection in due course,” she added.
An Elliott House spokesman said: “It closed with immediate effect and ceased trading as a care home as of Friday, November 19.
“Our primary concern was to ensure all of our residents were fully re-homed elsewhere, and we remained open until that was fully effected.
“Our problems stem from the Covid pandemic and we’re in a position of unsustainability going forward.
“This industry has been hit hardest and been least supported from the very beginning.”
The spokesman did not say why the decision was made at such short notice and would not explain how exactly the outbreak of coronavirus dented its viability.
When KentOnline attempted to speak to the care home’s nominated individual, Mike Wipfler, on Tuesday, he refused to shed any further light on the circumstances surrounding its closure.
He also claimed “everything’s in the hands of our solicitors now” and told our reporter not to call him again, before putting down the phone.
Elliott House was last visited by the CQC in 2019, after which it was given a rating of Requires Improvement - the second-worst score available.
Among its findings, the watchdog found that residents “were not always treated with dignity and respect” and “there were not enough staff to support people safely”.