Poots calls emergency talks over homes

Poots calls emergency talks over homes

Health Minister Edwin Poots has demanded all Health Trust heads in Northern Ireland attend a meeting on Friday to discuss the closure of nursing homes.

Speaking on UTV Live, Mr Poots described the handling of the situation as "poor" and said the directors of all trusts will be asked to explain themselves.

"It has been hugely disappointing for us," said the DUP minister.

"This has been handled so badly and I am summoning the trusts tomorrow to come and see me and explain themselves on this issue. I'm instructing them to meet the Commissioner for Older People, Claire Keatinge, in terms of the handling of all of this and it will be myself and the directors of the acute services and elderly services that will be before us."

I will be standing by Transforming Your Care but I won't be standing by all of these care homes closing in the next five months.

Edwin Poots

At a board meeting on Thursday the Western Trust approved proposals to proceed to consultation on closing four statutory residential care homes.

They said this would not affect nursing home provision in the area or the Trust's EMI residential home Seymour Gardens.

The homes; Rectory Field and William Street in Derry, Greenfield in Strabane and Thackeray Place in Limavady have a total of 74 residents, although there is room for almost double that, and they employ around 100 staff.

At care homes affected, elderly residents are reeling from the news.

Peggy Heaney has lived at Thackeray for two years and is very happy there.

She describes it as her "home away from home" and has made many friends since moving in.

"I want to live my life here," she told UTV.

"I'll fight to the very end if I can, I'll fight them and so will the residents behind me.

"If I can do anything that would stop it, I will do it."

Peggy has already started campaigning, joining a white line picket outside the home.

I want to go out that door, my final days, in a box. I don't want to go anyplace else. That's how much this place means to me.

Peggy Heaney, Thackeray resident

Ninety-year-old Gertie Mallon said she felt a "moral duty" to speak for her friends at Thackeray.

She says the residents don't want anything to change and she urged those in charge to think again.

"This place is my lifeline. It is home. I haven't been happier in years," she said.

"If I had to move from here, I would prefer it to be my requiem."

She added: "I felt there's something wrong with the government that has to torture its senior citizens to make ends meet.

"We are all in our sunset years of life and this announcement has caused us mental torture."

We realise that the residential care homes are the resident's homes and we bear a heavy responsibility to ensure they are treated fairly.

Gerard Guckian, Western Trust Chairman

Speaking earlier at the Trust Board meeting, Chairman of the Western Trust, Mr Gerard Guckian said health and social care is facing a "significant challenge" of implementing changes under Transforming Your Care (TYC).

"The strategic direction in Northern Ireland is that older people should be supported to stay as independent as possible for as long as possible in their own homes," he said.

"The care needs of older people have changed and reshaping services to promote independence means a move away from the traditional institutional model of residential care homes to ensure that our care provision is suitable for older people and fit for the future.

"In light of this and the expressed wishes of older people the Trust has developed a range of alternative services within the community that now focus on enabling people to remain in their own homes and maintain their independence so as to avoid them having to move into residential care."

Mr Guckian said those affected would be invited to have their say through the consultation process and that no final decision had been made.

I'm not quite sure how any trust can justify the closure of all their homes and I think they seriously need to look at that again.

Peter Robinson

Last week it emerged that the Northern Trust is planning to close all of its homes, with similar proposals said to be in place in the Southern Trust area.

Health Minister Edwin Poots has agreed that around half of residential homes in NI should close as part of the Transforming Your Care reforms.

But Mr Robinson said any trusts planning more closures than that need to think again.

"The policy to approximately reduce by half the number of care homes over the next five years was a sensible enough policy," the DUP leader told UTV.

"In my view it is not a suitable outcome to have all the care homes closed, which is what at least two are endeavouring to do."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also called for the Health Department to "get a grip" on the issue and deal with the "fear and anxiety" being caused.

SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan spoke to families and staff at the William Street home in Derry following a meeting with the Trust officials on Wednesday evening.

"Staff are obviously very concerned about what the future might hold for them, whereas families of the residents in William St are confused, angry, they're very upset," he said.

It seems to me and it seems to the staff, and more importantly to the residents that it is a done deal.

Mark H Durkan

Meanwhile DUP East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell and Limavady MLA George Robinson have launched a petition to save Thackeray Place.

Kieran McCarthy, Alliance MLA said he was disappointed that Trusts had "broken the promise" of only closing half of the region's care homes.

The public service union NIPSA has accused the Western Trust of "effectively serving eviction notices" on elderly residents.

The Belfast Trust said on Thursday that they closed one of three residential homes, Grovetree House, last summer and is aiming to close it permanently.

The Trust said they had no plans to consult on the closure of two other residential homes, which have 20 residents, and there are no planned changes for five other homes for older people with dementia.

A statement said: "Our residents and their families should be assured that they can continue to live there for as long as they wish to."


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