Pensioners and centenarians in the west of Northern Ireland are today facing the trauma of being uprooted from care facilities they regard as home.
The Western Trust has proposed the closure of four residential homes it runs, following similar announcements by other health bodies in Northern Ireland.
Staff and residents of Thackery Place in Limavady were the first to hear Board members of the Trust outline its proposals to shut the facility.
The same information was relayed to staff and residents at Rectory Field in the Waterside on Tuesday evening.
The Trusts two other residential homes in William Street in Derry and Greenfields in Strabane will be told on Wednesday.
The board proposes to enter into a 12 week consultation period but union officials described this as meaningless.
Under the proposals the 73 residents at the four facilities will either have to move into a private residential home or be cared for at home.
Among those affected is a woman aged 102 and 92-year-old Margaret Hunter, who has been living in Thackery Place for the past two years after she became too frail to remain in her own home.
Ms Hunter’s niece Hester Williamson said: “My aunt, although she did marry, she never had any children of her own but she led a fairly independent life in her own home until not all that long ago.
“She was burgled and then she moved into sheltered accommodation but then she fell and needed to go into hospital and really after that she needed more care and that when she went into Thackery.
“She is fully alert and takes a good interest in everything that goes on around her so this will hit her hard. It will be very traumatic for her to have to move from here and go into another nursing home.”
Josie McCann, whose mother is 99, said: “I honestly believe that if my mother was moved from there, it would kill her.”
In addition to the 73 residents, there are also 100 staff who now face an uncertain future.
Union officials from Unison, and the Royal College of Nursing also met with the Board.
Unison Regional Organiser Joe McCluskey said: “The Western Trust board members outlined their proposals to shut four residential homes in its area and said that after staff and residents were informed there would be a three month consultation period — but we believe that this is meaningless and that they have already begun the process of closing these homes.
“The alternatives facing the residents are either to care for them in their own homes or move them into private residential homes.
“We have yet to find out exactly how this will affect the 100 staff, the majority of which are union members but there is a real risk of redundancy or redeployment elsewhere within the Trust.
“It has become evident that there is a policy of privatisation from the Minister being implemented by the Trusts and that has not been debated or scrutinised on the floor of the Assembly.”
A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said it is taking proposals on the future of residential home care provision in the Limavady, Derry and Strabane Council areas to its Trust Board.
“If approved by Trust Board, the proposals will be the subject of a full consultation process over the coming months before any decisions are reached,” she said.
Londonderry's Seymour Gardens for dementia patients and five similar facilities in Belfast, have all been ring-fenced from closure.
But the Northern Trust has plans to stop long-term admissions to its entire block of nine homes. Half of those facilities will close within three years, before the entire service is closed.
The Southern Health and Social Care Trust has announced that its five facilities will close – while three in the Belfast area are being gradually run down.
All six state-owned elderly residential units are under review in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust area.