Sue Ryder Foundation to withdraw overnight supervision in its Tipperary facilities

Management of the Sue Ryder Foundation has said it “cannot afford all of the services it currently provides”, as it outlined changes to its service in Holycross and Nenagh.

The charity has been responding as concerns have been raised about plans to remove overnight supervision at it’s two independent living facilities in Tipperary.

Sue Ryder runs independent living facilities in Holycross and Nenagh, but says a decline in revenue before the pandemic even began, has forced a rethink of their current services.

In a statement to Tipp FM, CEO of the Foundation Gavin Reid said it was proposed that “the area of nighttime supervision” would have the the least impact on residents, and would instead be replaced by the use of an emergency response system.

This system allows for two-way communication between the resident and manager or the 24-hour centralized monitoring station run off-site by Tunstall.

A local person would be ‘on-call’ to attend on site if necessary.

Overnight supervision has been removed from Holycross recently, while consultations are beginning with staff and residents at the Nenagh facility.

Independent councillor Séamus Morris is critical of the move.

His 90-year-old father is one of the residents at the Nenagh facility:

“Every one of those 50 residents in Sue Ryder in Nenagh are cocooning. I’ve had to contact them over the phone… These people are locked in at the moment and for night staff to be taken away during what is a health crisis is just crazy.”

Below is the full statement from Gavin Reid, CEO of the Sue Ryder Foundation:

I’m quite sure you are aware of the services we provide and the costs the foundation would incur in doing so, It’s important to note we are not a nursing home we are an independent living facility.

Since our first scheme opened in 1982, The foundation has delivered high quality homes and services to our residents at a minimum cost to them, charges to residents have remained static for many years as we strive to keep them as affordable as possible. The balance is subsidised through the chain of charity shops we operate.

In recent years we have seen the contribution from our retail stores decline substantially, The increase in online shopping, surge in popularity in out of town centres and retail parks has taken footfall from the high street and we are suffering like all high street retail outlets. The rise in sales with groups like Penney’s and H&M with fast fashion at low prices has seen the quality of donations fall and with it their re-sale value. Allied to that the implementation of commercial rates on charity shops coupled with water rates adds further difficulties in an already challenging environment. In addition we see increases in costs pertaining to health & safety, governance, regulatory requirements, insurance, raw materials such as food, wage inflation the list is literally endless. As a result of this the foundation has been forced to review it’s operating model as it simply cannot afford all of the services it currently provides. The foundation has reviewed its model to establish where necessary cuts are made these will have the least impact on residents. It was proposed that the area of nighttime supervision would have the least impact on our residents and where we would have people sleeping on site in case of emergency, this could be replaced by technology in our case an emergency response system by Tunstall emergency response along with a 24 hour monitoring service, Although the monitoring element is only activated when staff are not on site, In this case after 10pm until the office re-opens in the morning. I must stress this has been an essential ongoing review over the last couple of years and not as a result of the current pandemic.

We have been working with this system in other schemes since May ’19 and it has proven to be a definite upgrade in the area of emergency response. The communicall connect system is an advanced communications system specifically designed for use in settings such as ours where there may be a need to provide extra supports for elderly residents, Essentially the system provides for two way communication between the resident and manager or residents and the Tunstall social alarm monitoring station which offers a 24 hour, 365 days a year response should we need it. This allows a much more efficient and effective way of ascertaining the needs of a resident seeking assistance, The system is integrated with emergency sensors residents are already familiar with such as personal pendants, Pull cords etc. This system further upgrades facilities by monitoring smoke detectors and is future proof and upgradeable that may include monitored fall detectors, pressure pads etc. Some residents have chosen to purchase additional supports such as watches both GPS and localised versions which allow even greater supports during the ageing process thus allowing people remain independent longer and avoid the need for nursing home care. Where the system is activated we have a local person “on call” to attend should that be necessary, so residents safety is never compromised. The proposal for Nenagh and appropriate consultations with staff and residents has just begun, but was implemented as stated in other schemes last year and Holycross recently.

The Nenagh Scheme has operated with Tunstall since opening. The current proposal is to adapt the monitoring element of it for overnight hours and extended periods at weekends.

The consultation process with employees will take time and the financial constraints prompted this proposal for both Tipperary Schemes in addition to the ones that converted prior. The system is not a new system for Nenagh or it’s residents, the proposal is to utilise the monitor capabilities to it fullest potential in respect of H&S for residents and financially for foundation stability requirements.

This proposal is necessary to ensure the foundation can continue to meet it’s financial obligations and ensure its long term survival but it has not been undertaken lightly. We feel cuts to other areas such as the kitchen, cleaning or laundry would have a far greater impact on our elderly residents.

The current Covid 19 crisis has resulted in the foundation having to close it’s chain of shops resulting in circa 50% of it’s revenues disappearing overnight, we have taken the necessary steps with our business to negate this impact but again I stress this has been a necessary review of our operating model and the Covid 19 virus has made It necessary to accelerate our proposals, but I can assure you very careful consideration has been given to ensuring we can continue to deliver services whilst navigating financially through our challenges.

Again I must emphasise we are not a nursing home but an “independent living facility” that offers additional supports, The proposal offers improvements in our operating model from both a Health and Safety emergency response perspective and our financial situation, all tenancies are registered with the residential tenancies board and in compliance.