Published Wednesday, 08 May 2013
UTV first spoke to Pinewood residents after breaking the story two weeks ago. (© UTV)
Two weeks ago it emerged that the Northern Trust was planning to eventually close all of its residential homes, as part of the Transforming Your Care reforms.
Similar proposals were then revealed to be in place in the northern and southern areas.
Amid growing public outcry, Mr Poots summoned the heads of the five trusts together for a meeting last week and announced that all planned closures were to be halted.
The minister then apologised in the Assembly for the distress caused to elderly people.
He said: "I know that several older people have been upset by the proposed changes and I want to apologise to them for any unintentional stress that may have been generated.
"The current process has been stopped so the current threat to any residential home being closed in the course of the next six months is gone."
In the wake of the apology, UTV returned to Pinewood care home in Ballymena Co Antrim, which had been earmarked for closure, to find that while two of the residents' daughters have started a petition to save the care home, they are still unclear about its future.
"There's still uncertainty," said Joan McKibben.
It's good of him to apologise and I thank him for that but I still think there's something down the line
"I'm no further forward other than in terms of what I'm reading in the local papers and seeing on TV but as far as I'm concerned we've been told six months but that's all.
"I still think there's something earmarked for this home. I think it will be a short term measure but we haven't been told by management. We haven't received communication."
While pleased about the apology, Margaret Wallace whose mother Agnes is 102 says she has yet to be formally told what's going on.
She says she is still concerned Pinewood will eventually close and called for the minister to visit and speak to the residents.
Margaret said: "The minister hasn't got in touch with us, the people in the home.
"He went to one home but he hasn't come to this home and I don't know about the rest but he has to get out and speak to us."
Mr Poots said a new process with "sensitivity" at its core is to be put in place with closures to be handled by the Health and Social Care Board.
No-one from the board wished to be interviewed, but in a statement said it was "taking stock of the current situation" and looking to "reduce stress and anxiety" for the elderly population.
A spokesperson continued: "The board has been asked by the minister to develop a regional process, working closely with Trusts, for consulting and implementing Transforming Your Care in relation to Statutory Residential Care Homes.
"This plan will be shared publicly, when it has been approved by the minister, at our earliest opportunity and in particular to the residents in our care and their relatives."
Mr Poots and his senior officials are to appear before the Stormont Health Committee about their handling of the care homes controversy on Thursday.
© UTV News