The health minister has been forced to implement a dramatic U-turn on plans by his health trusts to close all their elderly residential care homes.
The Southern, Northern and Western Health Trusts all unveiled proposals over the past eight days to close 100 per cent of their residential homes, the minister having previously said his plan was to close only 50 per cent.
It is understood that 339 elderly residents in 26 homes across five trusts would eventually have been at risk of losing their homes.
However, a public backlash together with scenes on television of distressed pensioners – and open revolt against the policy from the minister’s own grassroots colleagues – all combined until he was forced yesterday into announcing he was scrapping the trusts’ proposals and instead starting a fresh review of the closures under centralised control.
He said: “This is about listening to our older people and their families and our own staff. I have said I want genuine communication with every person affected and every individual to be treated with sensitivity and dignity.”
But Commissioner for Older People Claire Keatinge hit out, describing what she saw as “an abject lack of leadership from the minister, from the Health and Social Care Board and the trusts to demonstrate that they are putting at the very heart of this matter the people living in homes”.
And TUV MLA Jim Allister slammed what he said were attempts by the minister to “hide behind” the health trusts and John Compton – the man charged by Mr Poots with spearheading his reforms.
UUP MLA Roy Beggs called for Mr Poots’ resignation, saying there had been “ample opportunity” for him to intervene in the first seven days of the crisis.
And he said Mr Poots must “go beyond apologies and start offering guarantees” that no residents will be evicted under the next review.
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