Runwood Carehomes exposes the failures of capitalism and its limitations in times of upheaval

A number of weeks ago our activists supplied Clifton House Carehome in North Belfast with much sought after Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic front line health care workers have been putting themselves at exceptional risk for the benefit of the general public, elderly and most vulnerable in our society. 

To support workers and the community at large, the IRSP has been at the forefront of supplying PPE to carehomes and medical facilities across Ireland. 

The IRSP can attest to the fact that essential PPE is not expensive, yet there has been a wide-spread shortage of PPE for almost all carehomes throughout the crisis.  

We must ask ourselves, how then can any society fail to direct funds towards supplying PPE to front-line health workers and patients. 

So it is therefore important that we explore the root cause; as a basis to do this we will use the publicly listed company, Runwood Carehomes plc as a fitting example. 

A recent report compiled by Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) had identified failings over infection prevention and control at Clifton House. 

Indeed, it is almost impossible to understand why workers have not been supplied with  PPE by management, that is until the problem is viewed through the eyes of greedy capitalists in pursuit of profit at the expense of workers and those it claims to care for. 

In every money driven policy created a capitalist system and the ‘capitalist psychology’ will always put the economic needs of the state and the few before the needs of the many. 

The irony is that when such a system reaches a crisis point, as it did this year, such an approach actually damages both the economy and all of the people living under the system, and in light of recent events this should be clearly evident to all readers concerned. 

If we look at how left-wing governments handled the crisis we can see that their immediate ‘elimination strategy’ reaction put the needs of the people before the desire to ‘maintain the economy’, and as a result the virus was essentially stopped in it’s tracks. 

When we say ‘maintain the economy’ what we really mean is to prop up the economy using the working class as a human shield, capitalism will always have blood on it’s hands.  

Including Clifton House and Dunmurray Manor in North and West Belfast, Runwood plc manages and operates 67 residential carehomes across Britain and the North of Ireland. 

In comparison to other carehomes and carehome managers Clifton House has been hit particularly bad by recent events with 9 deaths and 19 members of staff contracting the virus. It is therefore of no surprise to learn that public officials, representatives and regulatory bodies have been inundated with complaints and concerns from staff at Clifton House, with this impact ultimately leading to an operational takeover by HealthCare Ireland from Runwood. 

This is not the first time Runwood has been in the news for bad press. In 2018 the company was under criminal investigation in Essex and in Belfast for mistreating patients. In Dunmurray Manor a 2018 report highlighted how Runwood was ‘failing to put a robust process to protect female residents from sexual and physical abuse’ and that there were ‘multiple instances of inhumane and degrading treatment.’ 

These events led to the departure of Runwoods then CEO, who was given an incentive payout of 17.2 million upon leaving. It was this incentive payout, along with an unprecedented increase in regulatory inspections and costs that damaged profits from the previous year. 

Yet since 2016, year-on-year there has been an increase in revenue; 117.4 mi (2016), 130.1 mi (2017) to 139.6 mi (2018). Following the 2018 scandal administrative expenses in 2018 almost doubled from 25.3 mi to 44.2 mi, this is telling in so far that prior to the scandal the company, while in the blind pursuit of profit, was clearly reluctant to fund itself properly, which inevitably led to failing standard of care and patient mistreatment. 

Indeed, in January 2020 before the COVID-19 outbreak recommended changes from 2018 had not been implemented fast enough, according to the NI commissioner for the elderly. This is a tragic finding as this was clearly a disaster in the making, that could have been lessened had Runwood acted promptly to regulators in 2018. 

Consequently, in a capitalist system it is not possible for the general public to put their full trust in health care companies, as the desire for profit and sales always over-rides what should be the primary function of the company, the needs and care of the patients and workers.