We're knocked sideways by closure plan
Relatives of care home residents tell of shock at proposal to move their loved ones 30 miles away
A day of celebration to mark the 70th birthday of a Londonderry care home resident turned into an evening of devastation after news emerged that the Presbyterian Church plans to shut the facility and move people 30 miles away.
Ard Cluan in Londonderry and York House in Portrush have been earmarked for closure by the church, with 40 residents and 60 staff moving to a new facility in Garvagh.
After a plea from people living in the centres and their relatives, the church said it would consider alternatives that would not have such a traumatic impact.
The family of Ruth Doherty - who only moved into Ard Cluan four weeks ago after a stroke - had to cancel a birthday party for her while her sister Yvonne and brother-in-law Alan Rowan attended a meeting with church officials over the plans.
Mrs Rowan said: "There are no words to express how good the staff are in Ard Cluan. The care, attention and love they bestow on my sister is incredible.
"The transformation in Ruth in the time since she has come here has been wonderful, but we have been knocked sideways by the news that she may have to leave and go 30 miles away.
"It was Ruth's 70th birthday, but instead of celebrating the occasion we're listening to the church's plans to close her home."
Lena McCartney (92), another resident who has been in the home for 12 years, added: "I love it here and the staff are all lovely. I wouldn't like it one bit if I was pushed out and I would be so sorry to have to go elsewhere.
"All of these ladies would be the same as me. If I could, I'd buy this place and we could all stay."
A spokeswoman for the Presbyterian Church of Ireland said that the homes had been earmarked for closure because of a lack of "opportunities for improvement".
But Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton said the proposals seemed to be without foundation.
"The biggest issue for the residents and staff is the distance they're being asked to move, and there doesn't appear to be any reason for it," he added.
"It had been mentioned that a lack of suitable accommodation was a reason, but alternatives are available that would keep the residents near Altnagelvin, their own GPs and other services. That would save a 60-mile commute.
"I am already optimistic that there is a glimmer of hope for the residents and their families."