Moving frail relatives out of care homes facing closure 'could kill them'
Families of vulnerable residents of a Co Down care home due to close fear the stress of moving their relatives to another home could kill them.
Relatives of people in Oakridge in Ballynahinch, one of seven Four Seasons home set to shut, have launched a campaign to keep it open.
The company said last Tuesday the homes would close in February because they were "operating at a loss".
The firm, the largest private care home operator in the UK, with 62 of them in Northern Ireland, also blamed a shortage of nurses.
The move prompted Health Minister Simon Hamilton to halt a planned closure of 10 State-run residential care homes.
Oakridge is home to 58 residents and employs 74 staff, with the total Four Seasons closures affecting 254 patients and 393 staff.
Relatives said the home was staffed by "wonderful, kind, caring and empathetic" staff, some of whom have family members working alongside them, worsening the blow when the axe falls.
Relatives added they "have no idea" where their loved ones will end up if the closure goes ahead.
Jenny Grainger said an online petition with Change.org and a Facebook page have been launched to raise the plight of people living at Oakridge.
The Crossgar woman fears a move would risk to the health of her 82-year-old father Michael , who only moved into the home last February.
"I strongly believe that the stress of the move could kill him," she said.
Jenny is keen to learn just why Oakridge and the six others facing closure - Antrim, Donaghcloney, Garvagh, Hamilton Court in Armagh, Stormont and Victoria Park in Belfast - were selected to be shut by the firm.
"If we could get this information maybe we could try to come up with a resolution," she said.
She also told how many concerned families feared that once the building was sold, it will be bulldozed to make way for something else.
"That would be such a shame," Jenny said. "It was custom-made for the type of care the residents need. It would be such a terrible waste of money and resources."
Hillsborough woman Paddi Roberts, who has an elderly relative in the home, said news of the fate of the centre was delivered as a done deal without consultation.
She added: "We are all appalled at the decision, especially bearing in mind that a senior employee of Four Seasons has said that an additional £60 per week per resident would keep the home open, yet this was never raised with residents and families or given as an option.
"This is what has distressed relatives the most - we were given no options."
Branding the closure of the home "morally wrong", she added: "It's not just a home - it's their home.
"There are many residents here who are at end-stage dementia, and the fear from their relatives is that if they are moved they will not survive."
A spokesman from the Department of Health yesterday said the review of the proposals concerning statutory care homes would be determined by the minister in liaison with the Health and Social Care Board.
"The intention is to ensure that any relocation will be managed with minimal disruption to them, that they are able to remain as close to the original location as possible and that there will be no additional financial implications created by the move," the spokesman added.
"All of the parties involved are committed to ensuring that there is clear, regular communication with residents and their representatives to address any concerns which may arise."
Four Seasons did not respond to a request for comment from this newspaper.