Hasty closure of St Albans care home is condemned as ‘ruthless’

Maryland Convent and Care Home

Maryland Convent and Care Home - Credit: Archant

The trustees of a Christian care home that was suddenly recently closed in St Albans have been accused of acting in a “ruthless manner” after nearly a century of care.

Three vulnerable elderly residents died around the time of being forced to move from Maryland Care Home in Townsend Drive.

Questions are still being raised about the hasty closure of the home, with a spokeswoman for the recently formed Maryland support group labelling it as “ruthless”.

She disputed claims by its operators, the Sisters of Mercy trustees, that there was no pain or suffering for residents forced to move into alternative homes.

Trustees have told the Herts Advertiser that Maryland had to shut, resulting in the uprooting of 29 elderly people and sisters, as it would cost millions of pounds to update the home to required standards.

But that has been vehemently disputed by the support group, which said independent assessments had established the building was in excellent condition, with upgrades estimated at costing over £30,000.

The spokeswoman warned: “The closure of Maryland will contribute to a shortage of placements for specialised care, including dementia care in Herts.

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“The spirituality of elderly care is crucial for our time, since we have an ageing population who deserve to be treated with dignity.”

She said the home did not need millions to keep it open, “with the order having more than £17 million worth of assets besides property to back the home”.

Trustees were also accused of exaggerating upgrading costs to “justify the most distressing closure that I have ever witnessed in Herts, because it has involved the betrayal of trust.”

Support group members have asked the diocese for part of the funds from the sale of London Colney’s historic landmark – the All Saints Pastoral Centre – to buy Marian Hall.

Until recently mass was held at Marian Hall, which adjoins the convent.

But now the group wants to buy the hall to use as a resource for day retreats for children and adults.

The spokeswoman said: “Our hope is to preserve the sacredness of this site after nearly a century of care and prayer there as well as a venue for community activities.”

The group has also applied to register Marian Hall as a community asset under the Localism Act 2011.

St Albans district councillor for Batchwood Martin Leach said the authority had received the application and it should be decided in April.

A last mass held recently at Maryland drew about 150 people.

Father Charles Sweeney of SS Alban and Stephen church said it was a “celebration of all that was good and the work that the sisters had done in the community, both with education and care for the elderly.”

He said tears were shed as people sang Auld Lang Syne, adding, “it is an end of an era there, for all the nuns and residents.”

A spokesman for the operators said: “If local groups wish to bid to purchase the property, they would be able to do so.”

He said relocated residents had settled into their new care homes.

The spokesman added: “We share the sadness of families, staff and the local community for what has been an incredibly painful and difficult decision the trustees have had to make.”