Residents in a south Dublin nursing home and disability centre, which faces closure under High Court liquidation proceedings, were particularly vulnerable, a solicitor told Mr Justice Garrett Simons on Monday.
"I represent both employees and residents, some of whom are in their twilight years and some of whom are blind and I will have to travel to meet many of them," solicitor Gary Daly told the court when he was granted an adjournment to facilitate the preparation of evidence on their behalf.
St Mary's Centre (Telford) nursing home is situated on a campus beside St Vincent's Hospital on Merrion Road in Dublin, and last month the High Court appointed provisional liquidators Dessie Morrow and Neil Hughes to deal with the winding up of the management company.
The nursing home has in recent years been the subject of critical inspection reports from the healthcare watchdog, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).
Barrister Ross Gorman, counsel for the liquidators, told the judge they had prepared a report for the court outlining that the company consisted of a nursing home and a disability centre which provided residential care for 31 patients currently requiring 24-hour care.
The disability centre consisted of assisted living houses and apartments currently for 19 residents. Many had significant visual impairment and would be legally termed blind, while others had special needs and required high levels of care and support.
The liquidators told the court the facilities were closing due to an inability to meet statutory and regulatory requirements to operate at full capacity or fund costs. Concerns over the long-term viability of the centre had arisen over funding levels following changes to the existing funding model by the Health Service Executive.
Their report stated there had been an increase in operating costs arising from a reduction in the centre’s capacity and increases in staff ratios to comply with regulatory requirements imposed by Hiqa.
The court learned that the main asset in the liquidation was the bank accounts with combined balances of about €1.145 million – funds received in respect of pension money and allowances due to residents and utilised to discharge the cost of care for residents. Any other allowances received by the company were paid over to residents.
The report stated there were also balances due to some former residents which was contained in the overall sum of €1.145 million and the liquidators were currently liaising with the company’s finance department to obtain a reconciliation of all funds due to former residents.
There had been meetings and consultations with staff and their union representatives over redundancy and, should the liquidators’ appointment be confirmed, it was their intention to clarify the position as regards employee entitlements. The HSE, represented in court by Conor Dignam SC, would provide continued funding in accordance with existing agreements.
The liquidators told the court they had already met the 31 residents or their representatives and had addressed queries and concerns they had regarding their appointment as joint provisional liquidators. Some of the residents had been living at the centre for a significant period of time (more than 70 years in one case) or had been a resident from a very young age.
The judge said he accepted that the patients at the centre were vulnerable people and he allowed an adjournment into early September to allow for affidavits to be prepared and exchanged between the parties.
Ross Lavelle, counsel for the St Mary's Centre, told the court that the provisional liquidators would remain in place in the meantime.