Health Minister Edwin Poots reprieves four care homes that faced the axe
Four residential care homes that were under threat of closure for more than a year have been thrown a lifeline by Health Minister Edwin Poots.
The homes are Thackeray Place in Limavady, Westlands in Cookstown, Pinewood in Ballymena and Rosedale in Antrim.
Mr Poots did a tour of the care homes run by the Northern and Western Trusts before he announced the good news.
Speaking after he made the announcement, the minister said the proposal to close any care home had not been his.
He said: "It wasn't my policy to close all of the homes in the first place, so in relation to the course of work carried out, I asked Fionnuala McAndrews from the Health and Care Board to carry that out, she reported back to me and there was a strong level of satisfaction about the care that was being received in the homes.
"We still have a problem in that we still have homes that have spaces in them and are not fully utilised.
"What I am asking The Health and Social Care Board to do is look at how we can best utilise the homes, and that may involve using some of the rooms for 'step down care' for hospitals and also how they can be used for day support care for people who are still in their own homes.
"I can see how facilities such as this can support Transforming Your Care in providing those day care facilities and also we can reduce the length of time people have to stay in hospital by fully utilising these facilities with quality staff providing that care."
The staff at Thackeray Place were relieved that their jobs had been secured.
Senior care assistant Pamela Campbell has worked at Thackeray Place for 16 years.
She said: "It has been a vigorous campaign and we have fought hard all along the way, so thank God we have now got this news for our residents. This was for them and it shows how important it is to go out and let your voices be heard, and sometimes there are people who listen.
"As regards staff and jobs, this gaive us so much security but it also gave the residents the security that they thought they were getting by coming into residential care.
"They know now that this is their home and they can stay here for as long as they want, and that means so much to them.
The campaign to save Thackeray Place received political endorsement across party lines.
East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell supported his party colleague's decision to keep the Limavady facility open.
"I think, to be fair, Thackeray was always well placed because there weren't very many vacant rooms," he added.
"Had there been 30 rooms here and 19 of them were empty, it might have been in a different position.
"I think the minister has come to an excellent facility to make the announcement that it is a using of homes and not a closing of homes that is going to be the future, and that is a good announcement."
The Health Minister chose the Thackeray Place home in Limavady to issue the reprieve. Josie McCann, whose mother Lettie Doherty, at 100, is the home's oldest resident, was there to hear the news.
She said: "It is such a relief, not just for my mother but for all the residents whose home is Thackeray. This shows that if you make your wishes heard then sometimes the powers that be do actually listen, and I have to give credit where it is due, the minister has shown he does care, and I thank him for that."