Anger after health chiefs open a fresh consultation into care homes closure
The relative of an elderly woman whose emotional plea led a former Health Minister into a U-turn over plans to close residential homes has raised questions about new plans to axe NHS care.
Jean Faulkner (94) lives in Westlands Care Home in Cookstown, which is among 10 now under threat of closure.
The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) yesterday announced a 12-week consultation on plans to close the care homes.
It insisted that no final decision had been made and added that no current residents would be affected if the proposals were approved.
But local campaigners and politicians have branded the move "closure by stealth that will affect the most vulnerable".
In April 2014 Ms Faulkner, who has lived in Westlands for four years, appealed for health trust plans to close her home to be scrapped, sparking pressure on former Health Minister Edwin Poots. He stepped in and reversed the decision by all five trusts.
Other homes now affected are Chestnut Grove and Pine Lodge in Belfast; The Roddens in Ballymoney; Slieve Roe in Kilkeel, and William Street and Rectory Field in Londonderry.
Jean's cousin Sheena Costello, who campaigned with residents and staff at Westlands, said: "I would give a reserved welcome to the news that none of the permanent residents will be asked to leave. But I feel there is still uncertainty and there are many questions that still need to be answered - many more."
Currently, there are 182 permanent residents in statutory care homes in Northern Ireland, and 13 permanent residents in Westlands.
"The home is being used for people in need of respite and step up-step down day care. Where are these people's needs going to be met if the home is closed to them?" Ms Costello asked.
Fionnuala McAndrew, director of social care and children with the HSCB, said: "I acknowledge that this has been a difficult time for residents, their relatives, carers and staff and the wider communities supporting statutory residential homes for older people.
"There will always be a need for some level of residential care, but the changing trends and desires of people must be taken into account too as we plan for the future. It is important that trusts provide the best possible level of care alongside the need to change and modernise their services."
The full list of care homes earmarked for closure are:
- Chestnut Grove and Pine Lodge in Belfast
- William Street and Rectory Field in Derry
- Northfield House in Donaghadee
- Slieve Roe in Kilkeel
- The Roddens in Ballymoney
- Pinewood in Ballymena
- Westlands, Cookstown
- Roxborough House in The Moy