Plan to close Lower Hutt rest home at centre of complaints

10:05 pm on 5 November 2020

A proposal to close a Lower Hutt rest home is not linked to an investigation into alleged abuse and neglect at the facility, says Masonic Villages Trust chief executive Warick Dunn.

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Photo: Woburn Masonic Care Trust

Woburn Masonic Care home is being investigated by the Hutt Valley District Health Board over several complaints from residents and staff of alleged abuse, neglect and intimidation.

Dunn said it was entirely coincidental the trust was now proposing to close down the 53-year-old home for two years for a $20 million rebuild.

The rooms were "incredibly small", lacked ensuites, and Covid-19 had brought home problems with constrained facilities, he said.

The rest home's 45 staff, 57 residents and their families were told yesterday of the plan, Dunn said. Consultation will continue for two weeks.

A letter from Dunn to residents yesterday said the aim was to build a 61-room rest home, as its commitment to carry on providing care "cannot be in the current building".

"For almost three years we have worked through different design options which have included partial rebuilds but have concluded ... a full-scale redevelopment is the preferred option."

If the rest home was closed, residents would need to move to another facility, or find accommodation through the Hutt Valley district health board.

Thirty one residents and almost half the staff could be offered the chance to move to a smaller home in Hutt Valley, Kelvin House in Manor Park, that is empty, Dunn said.

The trust is years away from adding a rest home to apartments it is building in nearby Wainuiomata.

He said it was "unlikely" any residents would have to move in with family who were not set up to cope.

"We engaged very early on with our needs assessment."

Staff at the home went on strike over their contracts late last year.

Several residents and staff lodged complaints alleging poor care and bullying at the rest home in 2019 and earlier this year.

The Health and Disability Commissioner closed its investigations into the complaints, but referred them to the district health board in April.

The health board had just begun a desktop review, Dunn said. "I would not expect that to stop," he said.

The DHB confirmed the review would continue.

It said it was also working with the rest home to ensure all its residents found somewhere appropriate to live.