Ulster Unionist Party Health Spokesperson Roy Beggs has said while the decision on care homes will come as welcome news to the residents, until the non-admissions policy is lifted closure of the homes remains inevitable.
The East Antrim MLA said;
“From the outset, setting politics aside, I would commend the Minister for carrying out a U-turn and listening to the residents of all of these homes. This announcement will come as great relief to the staff and residents. In addition the work of all the local support groups that have campaigned so hard over recent times to stand up for these homes should be acknowledged.
“The situation should never have developed however in the first place however. The manner in which the original announcements of closure were made last year was disgraceful. The fact a number of the Health and Social Care Trusts made very similar statements within a short space of time demonstrated that this decision to close so many of our care homes was organised and premeditated. By the time the Health Minister recognised that the situation was intolerable a further 8 days of announcements had passed.
“The news that the residents of these 18 care homes will now remain open for as long as the existing residents want to stay in them is a welcome development, but the lack of detail in the announcement and the Minister’s ensuing vagueness on the issue has left far too many unanswered questions.
“There is the real danger that the review of the non-admissions policy may be solely for the optics and could result in no change. Either the homes are going to be allowed to admit new permanent residents providing quality, affordable local or they will not. Without new residents then I am sorry but the Minister’s announcement has only delayed the closure of the homes, not stopped it.”
“Unfortunately I also have to seriously question the political choreography of how this latest decision was made. I hope the fact that Northern Ireland is exactly five weeks out from major elections is only a coincidence, as well the fact the Assembly is on recess and therefore no opportunity for a detailed scrutiny of this announcement. Why has the Minister allowed residents to feel uncertain about their future for so long and wasted health resources in the recent consultation into the criteria which would determine the future of individual homes? Why has the decision been taken only now?
“I would call on the Minister to be upfront and honest about the Health Service’s policy on the future of these homes.