24 April 2013
Last updated at 17:06 ET
The future of residential care services will be discussed by the trust
The Northern Health Trust has said it eventually intends to close all the residential homes in its area.
In a statement, the trust said it would close half of its nine homes in the next three years and, in the longer term, stop providing residential care entirely.
It comes after a union criticised the planned move.
Unison said the closures would remove any choice for vulnerable people.
The trust said: “At present the trust manages nine residential homes and we propose that no more long term admissions are made to any of our homes.
“We would intend to close up to 50% of our homes over the next three years and in the longer term stop providing statutory residential care entirely.
“Some private residential care will be available.”
On Thursday, the trust will discuss a paper on the Future of Residential Care Services, which, if agreed, will go to consultation.
The paper forms part of the Transforming Your Care plan recently agreed by Health Minister Edwin Poots, which recommended a 50% reduction in care homes across the whole of Northern Ireland.
Una Cunning from the trust said: “Older people have consistently told us that they want to remain at home for as long as possible.
“We are also planning for a growing older population and the ensuing demands on the service.”
Unison has said Pinewood in Ballymena and Westlands in Cookstown would close in November; Rathmoyle in Moyle would close in January 2014 with the remainder would shut between 2014 and 2018.
Joe McCusker of Unison said: “The proposal to close residential care homes leaves no NHS provision for residential care in the Northern Health Trust area.
“This will remove any choice for vulnerable people to be cared for in an NHS care home. The Northern Health Trust needs to explain why they have taken the decision to close all its residential care homes.”
He claimed it was a “deliberate move” by the trust to withdraw from provision of care in residential homes and to “leave the care of the most vulnerable in our society in the hands of private sector providers whose main aim is to maximise profits and satisfy their shareholders”.
Earlier this year, the BBC revealed that the number of statutory residential care homes in Northern Ireland would be cut by half to 27.
Greater emphasis is to be placed on providing care at home and on nurses working in the community.
The East Antrim Unionist MLA Roy Beggs, who sits on Stormont’s health committee, said he was shocked that the trust was going out to consultation to close all the homes in the area.
“I do not understand what is going on. There is confusion out there. Staff and vulnerable residents are very concerned with this latest news,” he said.
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