Relief of residents as havens reprieved
Relatives of residents in two nursing homes in Londonderry have expressed relief that plans to shut them have been shelved.
The Health Minister stepped in to halt the closure of Rectory Field and William Street care homes after Four Seasons Health Care announced it was shutting seven of its private facilities across Northern Ireland.
They are the only remaining facilities in the city not operated by a private company.
Judith O'Donnell, whose mother Peggy lives in William Street, said the news was a massive relief for residents, many of whom were very anxious.
"When I heard that the plans to shut William Street and Rectory Fields had been frozen, I was so relieved because my mother is so happy there, and I did not want to see the place being run down," she added.
"My mother is a very positive person and always looks on the bright side, so she kept saying: 'They couldn't close this place'. But there were many other residents who were left feeling very anxious when they heard about the planned closure.
"I hope this is not just a stay of execution, and I hope the Health Minister will scrap these plans. When you reach the age of my mother, you deserve to feel safe and secure in your home, and William Street is her home. She loves it there. She has thrived since going there. The staff are incredible - they shower her with care and attention - and having her there gives me peace of mind that she is getting the care she needs."
Health Minister Simon Hamilton interrupted the Health and Social Care Board's plans to shut five residential care homes it operates across Northern Ireland, including the two in Derry.
He asked the body to review its proposals for these facilities after the shock announcement by Four Seasons.
DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton welcomed the halt to the planned closures and said he hoped new admissions would soon be taken at both homes.
"This is good news for both the residents and staff of Rectory Fields and William Street," he said.
"Ideally, I would like to see both facilities functioning fully, which would mean new admissions, because they provide excellent services and the demand for those services will increase in the future."
No one from the Health and Social Care Board was available for comment.