Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs Jnr has said he is shocked at emerging proposals that, if implemented, will see all NHS Trust Residential homes in Northern Ireland being closed down by 2015. He was speaking after all 6 East Antrim MLAs were invited to Ballymena for a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Northern Health and Care Trust, Sean Donaghy last Friday.
Roy Beggs MLA said: “I was aware that the Compton Report- Transforming Your Care, which was commissioned and welcomed by Health Minister Edwin Poots last year reiterated the overall long term policy goal of the Department of Health to transfer resources in elder care from institution settings to care in the community and home. The Review also indicated an increasing use of the private sector, and spoke of a reduction of residential home places. However the Trust appears to have interpreted Compton as meaning the closure of all their Residential Homes within three years. We have been advised by the Trust that their proposals will be finalised before the end of June and submitted to the Regional Health Board and the Minister for final decision.”
The East Antrim MLA commented: “I have to say I am shocked by the proposed speed of implementing this policy. It was only a few years ago that the Northern Trust brought forward similar plans to close or replace 5 of their residential homes- 3 of which Lisgarel in Larne, Greenisland house, and Clonmore in Newtownabbey particularly affected East Antrim. The then Health Minister Michael McGimpsey did not accept the Trusts’ recommendations which were then radically altered. Lisgarel and Clonmore were to remain and Greenisland House was to be replaced by new sheltered housing.
At the meeting with the Trust Chief Executive , I expressed my concern that we have learned recently through the press of a local man who is unable to have his mother placed in Joymount Residential House despite there being places available. He has been told that vacancies are being held to enable the remaining Greenisland House Residents to be relocated at a future date. Under these latest proposals, if Joymount were to close as well as Greenisland, then many of these vulnerable, mostly elderly people would be forced to relocate a second time within a few years. Clearly this would be unacceptable. As before, little regard appears to being paid for the well-being of the existing patients in NHS Trust residential homes.”
Turning to domiciliary care, Roy Beggs MLA said, “Suitably funded care within your own home is preferred by most citizens, particularly when additional support is available from family and friends. However, I remain to be convinced that such care can fully replace residential care. Is the private sector the best place to deliver residential elder care?
Ultimately the decision on this matter now rests with the new Minister for Health at Stormont, Mr Poots. Ironically, when similar proposals were floated in 2009 Mr Poots and his colleagues were standing up in Stormont berating the former Minister, shouting about the “McGimpsey Cuts” before any decision had even been taken. Will Minister Poots now veto these similar proposals- which flow from a report he personally commissioned and has already welcomed?”
In conclusion Roy Beggs MLA said, “I would like to see all 6 east Antrim MLAs working together on this issue in a non-partisan way, for the benefit of all. Health should never be used as a political football. It was however disappointing that none of the 3 DUP MLA’s turned up for the meeting with the Health Trust.”