Question mark over care homes

THE future of four Fenland care homes, their staff and vulnerable residents is up in the air following an announcement that the company that runs them is to shut down.

Care home provider Southern Cross, which runs four homes in Fenland: Broad Oaks at March, Dove Court in Walsoken, Friday House in Friday Bridge and Strathmore House at Elm, announced last week it was to transfer all 752 of the homes it runs nationwide to landlords, or where appropriate, their new operators.

In a press statement issued last Monday Southern Cross said they had been working with a Restructuring Committee composed of its landlords and lenders towards finding an agreeable solution to its financial difficulties.

Details of the restructuring are not yet settled but all the landlords have said they want to leave Southern Cross - which announced last month it would be paying a third less of rents to its landlords because of its financial predicament.

Southern Cross, which has promised to do everything it can to preserve the continuity of care for its 31,000 residents, as well as safeguard the jobs of care staff, is one month into a four-month restructuring period.

But Monday’s announcement confirmed the existing Southern Cross Group will cease to be an operator of homes at the end of the four month period and as a result trading in the company’s shares has been suspended.

Shareholders are likely to get little or nothing back once the company closes.

Christopher Fisher, chairman of Southern Cross, said: “We are now able to begin clarifying the arrangements for the future operation of our homes. The process of change on which we are now embarking involves considerable effort on the part of our management and staff and their commitment and loyalty is much appreciated.

“We anticipate the period of uncertainty which we have been experiencing will now draw to a close. We regret the loss of value which shareholders have experienced.”

A company spokesman said they could not comment on the future of individual homes as that will be the responsibility of the landlords and any announcements would be made at the appropriate time.

This latest upset over local care homes follows the devastating announcement that Kingswood Park in March is to close this autumn and worringly many of those residents would be looking to relocate to the Southern Cross owned properties.