Care home residents and some staff seek to have examiner appointed

The High Court has been asked to appoint an examiner to a south Dublin nursing home and disability care centre for vulnerable people to see if the business can be saved.

The application is in respect of St Mary’s Centre (Telford) which operates facilities on a campus beside St Vincent’s Hospital on Merrion Road in Dublin.

In July the court appointed provisional liquidators to the company.

However lawyers representing residents and some of the staff, and former staff want the firm put into examinership, even for a short period of time, to see if the facility can be saved.

The company has opposed the application, which it says is doomed to fail. The firm has no prospect of survival and is insolvent, the company's lawyers said.

The application to wind up the facility, which is owned by the Sisters of Chairty order of Nuns, was brought on grounds it would be unable to meet redundancy payments of €950,000 arising from the liquidation.

The firm cited regulatory difficulties, concerns over future funding from the HSE and an inability to comply with Hiqa recommendations to modernise its facilities as reasons why it is insolvent.

'Unique' operation

Opening the application for the appointment of an examiner on Wednesday John Kennedy SC for the residents and some of the facilities current and former employees said St Mary’s has for many years catered for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Counsel said many of the residents at the disability centre are vulnerable, are deemed legally blind, and have other disabilities. Some of them have been there at the centre for 60 years. He said his clients, who watched the proceedings by video link, were asking the court to allow a brief pause to allow an examiner see if what was a "unique" operation can be saved.

Counsel said none of the company's creditors, which includes some of his own clients who are owed €150,000, were opposing the application to appoint an examiner.and that an Independent Expert's Report stated the company could survive if certain steps are taken, including the appointment of an examiner to put together a survival scheme with creditors and seeking expressions of interest from potential investors.

Counsel accepted that no investor has been identified, but if the proposed examiner, Mr Antony Wheldon, was appointed he could try and secure external investment during the period of court protection.

'Doomed to failure'

In reply Rossa Fanning SC for the company urged the court should not appoint an examiner, as the process was "doomed to failure."

The application was "high on rhetoric and emotion" but was lacking in financial analysis or details, counsel said.

He added that the company and its board of directors are of the opinion insolvent, has no prospect of survival and should proceed to confirm the appointment of liquidators to what was clearly an insolvent company.

Counsel also described the application for examiner as "a militant exercise in industrial relations" brought by a minority of workers at the facility.

Counsel said the company rejected both the "scandalous" and "unwarranted" criticisms made in court documents about the St Mary's board, and "the conspiracy theories" advanced by the applicants as to why an application has been made to wind up the facility.

The board he said were all volunteers who gained no financial benefit from their involvement with St Marys.

Such criticisms he said should not have been put before the court.

Counsel also said the delay in the time between the application for the appointment of provisional liquidators and the examinership application was "unprecedented."

Counsel said that plans had been put in place to ensure alternative facilities were found for the residents.

Conor Dignam SC for the HSE said his client was neutral on the matter. The HSE was in discussions with the provisional liquidators about taking over the running of the care facility during the estimated12 to18-month transitional period, counsel said.

The hearing, which is before Mr Justice Michael Quinn, continues.