'Elderly people in limbo' as private sector care homes earmarked for closure
Elderly people living in seven private sector care homes in Northern Ireland earmarked for closure have been left in limbo, the daughter of an 87-year-old resident said.
A total of 254 care home residents and 393 staff face an uncertain future after Four Seasons said the homes were no longer viable.
The announcement by the UK's largest private care home company on Tuesday came "totally out of the blue", said Ruth Evans, who added that she now fears the impact the news will have on her mother's health.
Families of those affected by the closures were given little information or reassurance by senior management at a meeting earlier this week as to the next step, Mrs Evans added.
She said: "The people who came to that meeting had no figures, they did nothing to give us an indication of what places were available in homes, what to do, who was going to do it, were they going to help? Nothing."
Her mother Edith Armstrong was just beginning to get settled in Donaghcloney care home near Banbridge, having moved there from her family home in the village less than seven weeks ago.
The decision to place the grandmother of 11 in the home was not easy, Mrs Evans said, but a stroke three months ago and other health issues left her needing 24-hour care.
Her mother became withdrawn when told her about the closure, Mrs Evans said, and later told her son: "I've no home."
Her family now fear the toll the shock news and a move to another home could take on her health, and that of other residents.
"You're taking them somewhere out of everything they've ever known, at a very vulnerable age, when they're vulnerable in their health and everything," said Mrs Evans, who lives in Enniskillen.
"I fear dreadfully of the impact on her health, long-term, and of the other residents as well."
The other homes closing are Victoria Park and Stormont care homes in Belfast; Antrim care home; Garvagh care home; Oakridge care home in Ballynahinch and Hamilton Court in Armagh.
The Health Minister has, in light of the announcement, halted proposals to close state-run care homes in Northern Ireland.
Simon Hamilton said it was right to "pause and reflect" on the future of statutory facilities following the move by Four Seasons to close seven of its 69 homes in the region.
Having moved their mother into the home so recently, and having had to give up the family home in the process, Mrs Evans said she and her siblings feel angry and let down.
She questioned how no-one within senior management knew of problems ahead.
"At no point was there any indication whatsoever that there was a problem or that the home was under review or anything else," said the 59-year-old office manager.
"We had to break up our family home and divide all her possessions, on the basis that she was to move into the care home permanently.
"We handed the key of her property in exactly one week before the announcement. We just can't believe this has happened."
A spokesman for Four Seasons Health Care said the closure decisions were "difficult but unavoidable". He cited a number of factors, including a lack of permanent nursing staff.