Families in tears at Belfast home's plan to give up nursing care
The families of elderly residents in a Belfast home have spoken of their "devastation and shock" at being told they will have to leave after it announced it would stop providing nursing care.
A letter was sent "out of the blue" to residents - some of whom have lived in Orchard House for 15 years - saying they will have to find new accommodation.
The private nursing home in east Belfast, which cares for 23 people, is being renovated and will change its status into a residential home rather than the higher level of nursing care required by more vulnerable residents.
One woman said families and staff were "reduced to tears" when the news was broken to them via a letter. Concerned relatives said they were worried about the impact it will have on family members who need full-time nursing care.
The letter sent to residents stated: "We have also decided to change the type of care we provide from nursing to residential."
Elaine Finlay's father was left upset after being told his wife Mary - who had been recovering from a stroke - would have to be moved.
"She had had a massive stroke in July 2013 and over the last three months had begun to settle and interact with the staff," Ms Finlay said. "The staff are just amazing and this came out of the blue. The transfer will be difficult for everyone."
Ms Finlay said many were concerned because of a lack of available nursing home spaces, meaning their loved one may have to move further away.
"My father Roy is 81 and it breaks his heart.
"He is older and can just drive short distances. So we want the best home for mum but we worry about him too being able to visit her."
Daphne Newbury said her 94-year-old father Thomas has been in the home for almost two years. "He has dementia and has had several strokes. They are so used to the staff and for people with certain conditions it is so important they trust them. I feel so sorry for the residents and staff. It's been an absolute nightmare."
In a statement from the trust, a spokeswoman said: "The trust has been notified by the homeowner that the nursing home is required to close for refurbishment of the facility, and therefore there will be a requirement for residents to move to alternative care homes.
"However, be reassured that Belfast Trust staff are working closely with the residents and their families to identify suitable alternative accommodation and will support them through this process."
A statement from the owners said Orchard House Nursing Home was to close temporarily in the next few months for extensive renovations.
"We have consulted with residents, relatives and health trusts to ensure the transfer is as smooth as possible," it said.
"All of our staff have been offered a financial package to compensate them for the temporary closure."
June Wilson's 94-year-old mother Eveline Clark, has lived in Orchard House for 15 years.
"I was on my way to see mum and the manager came over to me. She said there was a letter to say Orchard House will no longer provide nursing care. The tears were streaming down my face and hers. I'd be worried about mum's physical and mental well-being."