Friday, June 3, 2011


No sooner had Deputy Ann Pryke been appointed as Health Minister than she started talking about a new hospital. That £300 millions folie de grandeur seemed to have been forgotten under the CSR cutbacks but it has arisen again now. The pretext is mixed up with the out of control ageing population “problem” but there are other threads that probably have much more to do with “greed.”

Health Minister Stuart Syvret had a brush with the private developers wanting to grab some of the “health care” action with regard to new hospital facilities in
Kensington Place
He fought that off but it was only an initial skirmish and now the “private equity meets public service” disease is a national epidemic. It is certainly a favourite post New Labour current Tory/ Lib Dem strategy.
And, it will most certainly be coming back to Jersey – just as soon as our economic whiz kids can launch the re-vamped WEB as the “Jersey Development Company.” That will be the key to unlocking the whole treasure trove of publicly owned property for the private developers and speculators.

Senator Ozouf is delighted that the barmy appointments process (the missing Baroness et al) has now received a favourable Scrutiny Report – so it’s full steam ahead with getting the JDC on the road.

A devlopers’gem like a new £300 millions hospital – to be built in accordance with some very expensive private/public leaseback arrangement and the old
Gloucester Street
premises thrown in – is just the sort of profitable investment that will be prized.
The Housing Department too are just itching to open up their £1 billion cache of properties as “security” to borrow on. The banks and speculators will soon enough own the entire public housing stock.

Of course, the beneficial owners of any new PPP developments will most likely be safely registered “off-shore” to avoid any unpleasant taxation or regulatory implications and all existing States offices and other premises are under the accountants’ microscope.
Ozouf still dreams of a Dubai style 600,000 sq. ft. of new offices on the Waterfront – even though the Dubai model is a financial mess and the Jersey Waterfront is an architectural disaster littered with failed practical and theoretical projects.

Now in the UK, the Southern Cross Healthcare Group is going bust in spite of the fact that it runs 750 homes, caring for 31,000 vulnerable residents. Many residents are reported to be financed at £3,000 each per week by government with taxpayers’ money.

A local Jersey home within the group is the “Lakeside” at St. Peter (the former Mermaid property) but the whole group is a complicated and loose organisation with premises owned by many different entities.
An offshore fund of the Qatari Investment Authority owns about half of the homes and has been the subject of protests from Trades Unions regarding excessive rents charged to the care home operators.
And there’s the rub. Care for the elderly or the vulnerable is just another business and that means that profit-making is paramount. Good care is often a mere bye-product.

The Circle Health Group in the UK is also expanding into the provision of such as the Bath Hospital and is part of a 49% BVI and 51% Jersey owned business. The Hospital had a 50% Lehman Bros. interest on its company board which was also part Jersey owned. What would the residents of Jersey say if the General Hospital was owned by a Cayman Islands company charging a very high rent or paying no tax?

The past few decades have seen several very large, national care home provider companies going broke. Southern Cross is just the latest – but the difference is that government now relies evermore upon the private sector for residential and other “public” facilities. The Jersey government is no different – privatisation (outsourcing) is a main plank of the new CSR cutbacks plan. “User pays” now means that the service user pays twice – once through various taxes and then again through direct fees or charges at the point of delivery (often by a private contractor).

The Four Seasons Care Home Group is another major national provider and has several homes in Jersey. This group too has experienced severe, multi-millions debt problems and its future has been considered uncertain. But shall Jersey taxpayers be required to save a failing substantial care-home if the residents are made homeless?

Furthermore, the standards of care provided in British care homes have been highlighted by the recent Panorama TV programme which used a concealed camera to expose the practical failings and inadequacies in the care provided at “Winterbourne View.”

So much for “accredited media” methods, – but how else to blow the whistle?

This was not an old building with antiquated facilities but was a small, modern facility catering for only 24 residents. Yet, by general consensus, this is not the sort of institutuional provision that should have been offered to the young, disturbed residents at all. So far as possible, the residents should be living in small home units, within the community. Sound familiar?

The regulating authorities have been shown to be hopelessly inadequate in the UK – but what about Jersey? Is anybody asking the right questions here? In an Island that has still not addressed all the issues arising from Haut de la Garenne and other Children’s care facilities, the prognosis is not good.

In fact, the current, superficial Jersey evidence is very worrying.
Inquests are currently pending on several people whose deaths, whilst in care, or welfare and treatment whilst in care, gives rise to considerable concerns.
Cost-cutting government policies may well be a common factor but the standards of inspection, regulation and supervision in Jersey are also inadequate.
The Scrutiny Report on “Long Term Care of the Elderly” led by Deputy Le Herissier and published in December 2008 (SR 12/2008) was a good starting point for a critical look at Jersey’s facilities but it has (inevitably) been largely ignored.

As revealed in the Winterbourne (Panorama) example, one of the substantial problems is that trained and competent staff is in short supply. The temptation to employ people on very low wages, who will undertake basic tasks to serve the purposes of making profit, rather than the best interests of those in care, is obvious.
In Jersey, it is particularly worrying that staff can be recruited without even the most basic police or competence screening - often by outside agencies or UK recruiting departments, for local (Jersey) facilities.
In an Island that has a very high percentage of casual and transient workers, often enduring sub-standard housing or employment rights, it is also obvious that some people recruited to work in residential-homes or other caring environments, would not be a first or any choice.

In the UK, local authorities have an obligation to provide care under the National Assistance act 1948 to all who need it. This obligation is being exploited by those businesses and politicians who see “care” as just another profit making opportunity.
Without any doubt, the care home providers are now in a similar position to the banks that were deemed too important to go bust. The government cannot allow 30,000 or any large number of elderly and/or vulnerable people to become homeless. So, at the end of the day, the taxpayer will have to pick up the tab – excessive rents, fees, profits et al.

Since much of the profit is evidently being secreted through tax havens such as Jersey –the residents of this Island might seem to deserve to experience some unpleasant self-medication.

However, the statutory obligations upon the Jersey government are few. There may be no obligation to provide care for the vulnerable beyond that which arises at Parish charitable level and there  is no obligation to house the homeless or provide money specifically for the unemployed. Besides which, there are all the quals/non quals housing and employment/ prejudice layers of discrimination that serve to blemish the Island Paradise/ caring image.

Jersey has an immense problem pending with regard to the provision of residential care for a great many people of all ages. There is also a staffing problem and a premises shortage. But there is also a  critical discussion that needs to take place about the use of Jersey as a covert base for care homes providers operating in other places (such as the UK). Once again, Jersey can be viewed critically in the eyes of the world.

1 comment:

  1. I hear Dandara has already got St Saviours Hospital.