Belfast Telegraph

Elderly patients face upheaval as Northern Ireland care home to close

By David Young

Sixteen elderly residents were facing disruption last night after a privately-owned home announced it was closing.

The owners of Rathowen Care Home, situated halfway between Portadown and Tandragee, informed patients and staff yesterday of their decision to close the facility, which also has 30 staff.

"It is with deep regret that we announce the closure of Rathowen Care Home within the next 28 days after 42 years," the owners, Mr and Mrs Watt said.

"Management have informed staff, patients and relatives of the decision throughout the day, explaining that the closure is due to ongoing difficulties in recruiting and retaining the skilled and experienced nursing staff required to run the home."

The owners said they intended to retire once the last patient had been placed in alternative accommodation.

"Management will work to ensure that patients, relatives and staff are kept informed throughout the closure transition, and in consultation with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, ensure the transition is carried out with the highest concern for patient care."

A spokeswoman for the owners told the Belfast Telegraph last night that recruitment difficulties, coupled with high costs for agency nurses, had influenced the decision to close.

"The owners are feeling quite distressed about the decision they've had to make," she said.

"There is a national ongoing shortage of nurses, and the home has had a reliance on agency staff, and that has had an impact on everything else.

"We have met with staff, we have met with relatives, and the Southern Trust, who are currently seeking beds for the 16 people who currently live here.

"They are confident that there are beds available, and that everybody will be successfully placed within the next 28 days.

"The home will continue to operate until the last person leaves."

Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council Gareth Wilson said the Rathowen Care Home would be missed.

He paid tribute to its contribution to the local community.

"It's been in operation for quite a few years now," he said.

"It's been popular and well thought of.

"My own grandmother had been a resident in it and I knew the home well.

"The staff were always very pleasant and helpful.

"It's unfortunate its closing. It was a valuable local facility and a valuable local employer."

The news of the home's closure comes just days after the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority, which oversees standards in nursing homes, issued a written decision ordering that admissions to Rathowen should cease until standards improved.

The Southern Trust said: "Rathowen Care Home in Tandragee recently informed the trust that the home is closing.

"The trust is working closely with RQIA and the home to ensure a safe transfer of the residents to alternative accommodation.

"The trust has assigned individual key workers to work closely with each of the residents and their families to find alternative accommodation so they can receive safe, high-quality care in a suitable environment which meets their individual needs."

Belfast Telegraph

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