St John's home issues 'across care industry'

STRUGGLES with staffing and property maintenance, made worse by Covid, took St John’s Residential Home to the brink of closure, members of the charity’s board have confirmed.

(Picture By Peter Frankland, 31542770)
(Picture By Peter Frankland, 31542770)

The charity rented the property in the grounds of Saumarez Park and has now handed management of the 45-bed home to the States, which will run it from the start of next year.

St John’s board member Suzanne Pickard said it was common knowledge that the care industry was stretched both financially and with regard to staff.

‘St John’s is no exception,’ she said. ‘Every news bulletin has some story about the challenges facing the industry. Every home on the island is facing the same problems at the moment.’

The care home was founded in 1945, and was run by St John until the 1960s.

Since then it has been run by a charitable board.

Mrs Pickard said that the whole process of placing the care home in the hands of the States had been very distressing.

‘It’s hugely sad,’ she said. ‘The residents, families and staff are our primary concern. It is hard to talk about this publicly, as we need to maintain their security and not worry them.’

She said the States had been supportive during the transition, and singled out operations manager Jason Moriarty for particular praise.

‘The States have seen the necessity of keeping those beds in the island. The home has amazing staff and they stay in situ. Continuity of care is so important.’

Saumarez House, the listed historic mansion that accommodates the residential care home, is owned by the States and leased to the charity that ran the home.

The lease does not extend to any of the outside space and this would have made the home unattractive to any private care provider to take over, Mrs Pickard said.

‘The building is owned by the States. The charity rents the property, but no land, it literally ends at the front door. We had a full repairing lease, and those costs in that building, especially in a care home, are prohibitive.

‘The fact that the property was not owned makes it [private ownership] difficult, and across the UK there is no will to invest in the care industry as it stands. We are the only home on the island that doesn’t own its premises.’

Mrs Pickard also mentioned the impact of Covid on the charity’s finances as being a critical factor.

‘With the upkeep of the building, and then three years of Covid, with the impacts that had on costs and staff, it was huge.’

Mrs Pickard said she was unsure of what part she and her husband Colin, who was the St John’s chairman, would play in the management of the home in the future.

‘It is not totally decided what our role will be, but it some form we would always be there to be supportive of St John’s,’ she said.

History of Saumarez House

The original house was built in 1721 by William Le Marchant, a member of one of Guernsey’s leading families of the time.

In 1783 the property passed by marriage to James, First Baron de Saumarez.

The house was greatly enlarged and improved by James’ grandson, the British Ambassador to Japan, who added wings to the east and west of the main building. He also laid out the park with fine gardens, paths, a stream and a lake.

In the early 20th century the building was the official home to the governors of the island.

The States bought the property, including the gardens, in 1938, and it was used as States offices for a short while during the Occupation before the German labour corps, Organisation Todt, requisitioned it.

After the Liberation, the States allowed the local St John ambulance brigade to use the house as a home for the elderly, particularly those returning from England.

During the early 1960’s, management of the home became too much for the St John volunteers and administration of the home became vested in an independent elected board of management, which continues to run the home as a registered charity.

In 1994 the name of the home was changed to St John’s Residential Home.

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