Dunoon home closure ‘set to hit Bute carers’

THE closure of an Argyll and Bute Council care home in Dunoon could have hidden implications for people on Bute, it has been claimed this week.

Council members voted narrowly in favour of “a managed process in respect of a closure of Struan Lodge” this week, subject to consultation over the residents’ future care and to no viable business proposal coming from an alternative provider.

But Buteman reader Caroline MacPhee has warned that the home’s closure could also have an effect on carers in need of respite - a consequence which, as far as we know, has not yet been publicly considered.

Caroline’s father, who suffered from vascular dementia, died at Argyll and Bute Hospital on Tuesday, February 19.

Before his death, Caroline contacted The Buteman to highlight the potential effect of Struan Lodge’s closure on patients with long-term illnesses and their carers.

“My father was diagnosed with the condition in 2008,” Caroline told The Buteman, “and as his condition worsened, my mother became his full-time carer.

“She was advised that she would be entitled to six weeks’ respite per year. When trying to arrange respite, she was advised that there was only one respite bed, located in Thomson Home, for the whole of Bute! And she would have to book his place at least six months in advance.

“She often found that dates were unsuitable, so the only other option available to her was for dad to go over to Struan Lodge in Dunoon, which has specialist dementia input.

“I have no idea how many carers there are on the island, but to have only one bed on the island available for respite is unacceptable in itself. To close down one of the few other options available is a disgrace. 

“Does anyone care for carers? They save the government a fortune by trying to keep their loved ones at home as long as possible, but carers need a break, especially when dealing with loved ones who cannot do anything for themselves - it’s a full-time job! 

“Does Argyll and Bute Council have a clue about what they are doing and the impact it will have on carers? Are carers going to be expected to take their loved ones on a two and a half hour car trip to Lochgilphead? 

“I would like to know what the council expects carers to do.

“When my mum tried to book Thomson Home’s only respite bed for this coming October, they did not feel that they could cater for his demanding needs due to his medication problems. If my dad was in this situation, then there must be other people in the same position. 

“I don’t know how many other carers use Struan Lodge for their loved one. But as an NHS Highland newsletter stated, ‘we are about to be hit with a dementia tsunami’, so more and more demand will be put on the very services this council are trying to get rid of. 

“Surely it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that these services are vital to our community!”

The closure of Struan Lodge was agreed by 17 votes to 16, with three abstentions, at the council’s annual budget meeting in Lochgilphead – much to the distress of the supporters of the home in attendance.

We asked Argyll and Bute Council to confirm the current situation regarding respite beds both on Bute and in the Bute and Cowal area, and what impact the closure of Struan Lodge would have on that provision.

The council was unable to provide a comment in time for this week’s print issue of The Buteman, but we’ve been promised a response which we’ll publish on this site when we receive it, and in print in next week’s edition.

* News that Caroline’s father had died reached us after this week’s print edition of The Buteman had gone to press, but Caroline told us she was happy for the above story to be published online in the hope that some good might come out of the situation.