THE family of an elderly woman, who died after being forced to leave her doomed Basingstoke care home, are questioning whether the move caused her death.
Vera Smith was living at Deeside, the home in Alliston Way, South Ham, which Hampshire County Council (HCC) decided in December should close down because it would cost £2.3million to bring up to modern standards.
Vera’s family was informed by a HCC representative that she needed nursing care, because of mobility problems.
Vera’s daughter Yvonne Tuxford said she was told that because Deeside is not licensed for nursing care, 92-year-old Vera, who suffered from dementia, would have to move out.
Yvonne, 63, and her husband Terry, 62, of Western Way, found a place for Vera at St Thomas’, in St Thomas Close, South View.
Mr Tuxford said: “We advised the HCC representative of this, who then told us the nursing care assessment had been carried out on Monday – some two weeks after we had been told it had already been done.”
Vera moved to St Thomas’ on March 4, and her family was informed that the nursing assessment had come back as ‘borderline’.
Mr Tuxford said: “To me, borderline means the decision could fall either way but there is no doubt in my mind that we were encouraged to relocate her.
“My question is – if HCC had not been closing Deeside, which side of the line would she have fallen then? It was all very ‘convenient’.”
Mr and Mrs Tuxford were advised to give Vera a couple of days to settle in to her new home before visiting. However, the home had an outbreak of a sickness bug and was closed to visitors.
Vera caught norovirus, and a chest infection she had been suffering with also flared up. She died on March 16.
Mr Tuxford said: “The last time we saw her was on March 2 when she was sat in her chair in Deeside, looking quite well and chatting to us and the other residents and staff.
“We cannot offer enough praise for the staff and carers at both Deeside and St Thomas’ but we are convinced in our own minds that if the HCC representative had not been in such a hurry to move Vera out of Deeside, she would still be with us today.”
Vera moved into Deeside in May last year, just before talks of the closure surfaced.
Mr Tuxford, a father-of-two, said: “She was happy there. We were going to leave her there as long as possible.”
He added: “If she hadn’t been moved, she wouldn’t have been exposed to the norovirus. I would like to see the risk assessment that HCC did.”
Councillor Liz Fairhurst, executive member for adult social care and public health, said: “I was saddened to hear of the death of Mrs Smith, and our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time.
“Care home residents move setting for a variety of reasons, including when their needs become more complex and when nursing or end-of-life care is required.
“The decision to move an elderly person is only taken following advice from their GP and an appropriate clinical assessment, and it is always carried out in consultation, including the resident’s carers and family.
“The comfort, security and wellbeing of those in our care is always our main priority, and we will only move a person when we are satisfied that the alternative will better meet their particular care needs.”