MS centre reprieve is ‘wonderful news’

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A Whitehead family have been given fresh hope over the future of a MS respite centre after its non-admissions policy was overturned.

Pat Torbett, 81, has been the primary carer for her husband Billy since he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 22 years ago.

The local man received eight weeks of respite care per year at the Regional Multiple Sclerosis Centre in Dalriada Hospital, Ballycastle.

Last month, it was announced that the facility would be temporarily closed until March 2015.

The decision led to public outcry and the launch of the ‘Save the Dal’ campaign among patients, their families, and health professionals.

However, the High Court ordered last week that the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and the Department of Health must continue to accept new patients at the hospital.

The ruling comes as part of a judicial review being taken against the decision to temporarily close the hospital.

This, campaigners claim, was due to the Northern Trust’s “failure to carry out adequate consultation”.

Although her husband has used up his eight-week respite allowance for the current financial year, Mrs Torbett said the family were “hopeful” over the implications for the future of the centre.

“It’s absolutely fantastic news; although Billy had used up his eight weeks at Dalriada until the start of April next year, he is a bit more hopeful that there will still be something available for him there after that. In the run-up to Christmas I am hoping that he will be able to get a week’s respite in Gillaroo Lodge in Larne.

“The families have been working very hard to keep the centre]open; my grandson set up a petition on the Internet and sent it to [Health Minister] Jim Wells.

“Between us and the other families who have come forward, hopefully we will be able to save Dalriada.”

Dr Réamaí Mathers from the ‘Save the Dal’ group said that the ruling shows the need for the Health Minister to intervene. “For over five weeks we have made it abundantly clear to Jim Wells MLA that the entire approach to the closure of Dalriada Hospital is fundamentally flawed; now he is hearing it from the High Court,” Dr Mathers said.

“We once again urge the Minister to immediately intervene and work with the local community and health professionals to ensure that Dalriada continues to play a vital role in the provision of health care for patients throughout the entire Northern Trust.”