MLAs’ fears for elderly care services

editorial image

EAST Antrim MLAs have spoken of their concerns regarding plans to close all residential care homes in the Northern Health Trust area.

Speaking about the local effect of the proposals to shut care homes in East Antrim, Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs said: “Even in the worst-case scenario, I never envisaged the Northern Trust proposing a total closure of all of their residential care homes.

“The decision to close half the residential care beds within a three to five year period carries many risks for vulnerable residents and for our health care system.

“Any proposal to close them all will leave many of our most vulnerable adults with great distress and uncertainty. With the increasing reliance on domiciliary care, will there be sufficient respite care for the growing numbers of vulnerable constituents who will rely on additional support? Will there be sufficient alternative residential accommodation within a reasonable distance from family and friends? It would appear not.

“From personal family experience over the past year, I have seen how vital respite and rehabilitation has been provided at these residential homes that the Trust now wants to close - without adequate alternatives being available.

“Existing residents must be respected and catered for. There is also a growing need for respite care to support the growing numbers of elderly being looked after at home. The local Trust has not been admitting new residents into our local care homes for over a year, but these homes could fulfil a vital role by increasing the level of respite and rehabilitation and reduce readmissions to hospital A&E.”

Mr Beggs added that he and a representation of concerned residents will be meeting Trust chief executive, Sean Donaghy in Ballymena this week to discuss the proposals.

Meanwhile, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson described the Trust’s decision as “irrational and illogical”.

“It has always been clear that it has been the intention to force people into the private sector,” he added.

“This decision is creating considerable fear and confusion among the residents of these care homes and their families.

“While I welcome any move that helps people stay in their own home, there is still a need for the Trust to provide a residential care home service.”