FAMILIES with elderly relatives in a South Tyneside care home say they are in limbo after owners said it is in talks with a major supermarket chain to sell off the site.
Oakdale Lodge, in Stanley Street, South Shields, could be closed down and sold off to make way for an expansion of the nearby Lidl supermarket.
Andrew Lapping, managing director of the Glasgow-based property investment firm Hamilton Portfolio Ltd. says talks began with Lidl about 12 months ago.
But before any sale is agreed, he wants to make sure that the residents are found new homes and there are jobs for the staff.
Families of the 30 residents staged a placard-carrying protest against the plan when the home’s operators, Executive Care Group, staged a series of meetings with staff and clients.
John Rutherford, 58, whose father Jack Rutherford, 80, lives at Oakdale, said: “We are still in the same position. The care home could close in three months, six months, a year. We still don’t know.
“It is a nightmare situation as you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
“Do I find a new home straight away for my dad, where he won’t know the surroundings or the care team.
“Or do I wait. We’ve been told they are trying to find alternative accommodation and want to keep all the residents and staff together. It does feel like it is all about money.
“The care home is not making any profit as it only has 30 beds.”
Three petitions – with more than 3,000 names – have been raised by campaigners in the last two weeks in a bid to stave off closure.
However, residents were told at the meeting that the care home is to close.
Mr Lapping says that talks with Lidl are at an “embryonic” stage, with no agreement sealed yet.
He said: “I bought the home five years ago and leased it to Executive Care Group on a 10-year lease.
“Executive Care Group went into administration last October and was bought out by a company called Monarch.
“I was approached by Lidl about 12 months ago who want to buy the property to extend its premises. It is a difficult situation for everybody.
“The sale isn’t going to happen overnight. I would expect the home to close over a period of six to nine months.
“My proviso in the negotiations has been that I want to make sure that the residents are found new homes and there are roles for the staff. I fully expect the staff to be offered new jobs.
“This is not about making a quick buck.”
David Harrison, chief executive of Executive Care, said: “We are currently reviewing the future of Oakdale Lodge due to growing uncertainty around the site.
“While this home is loved by residents and staff alike, the building is not owned by Executive Care and we are not protected by a long-term lease.
“Some months ago we became aware that a third party was in direct negotiations with the landlord with a possible view to acquiring the site for redevelopment. This likely sale remains a real possibility.
“Once rumours started to circulate it combined to create anxiety and uncertainty about the home’s future, impacting on our ability to take in new residents and threatening our ability to retain and attract staff.
“During our review process we are looking at all options to keep the staff and residents together.
“We have identified possible alternative care homes sites that we may be able to take ownership of, and are now examining the feasibility, logistics and investment implications.”
“We should know within the next fortnight whether there is a realistic prospect of being able to transfer our existing operations at Oakdale to another care home within South Shields.”
Lidl did not respond to a request for comment.
Families fears over moving
JOHN Rutherford and fellow campaigners have praised the standard of care provided at the home and fear for the effect of an unsettling move on their relations.
Annabel Snowdon, whose 94-year-old mother has been a resident at the home for two years, added: “She needs two carers full time.
“She had a major stroke and has no speech.
“The move could kill her.
“I don’t think she will cope.
“The staff here are fantastic, we are really happy with them.” Joanne Mills, a support worker at the home, said: “We are all heartbroken, it is devastating. We can’t believe it is happening.
“It is awful for the residents and for the workers, we all have bills and mortgages to pay.”
Executive Care says it remains committed to finding alternative accommodation for staff and residents.
The 30-bed residential, nursing and dementia care home, is one of 25 homes the group operates.