Councillors are wary of ‘raising expectations’ over residential homes

Lisgarel. INLT 19-404-PR
Lisgarel. INLT 19-404-PR

LARNE Borough Council is preparing for a campaign aimed at ensuring that care for older people is properly funded and resourced.

Sweeping Health Service reforms now being considered by Stormont minister Edwin Poots involve a proposal to phase out residential homes by 2015, including the Lisgarel unit in Larne.

Having been briefed by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust on the likely shape of the Transforming Your Care proposals locally, the council has set about reconstituting the health sub-committee which spearheaded the successful campaign to save Lisgarel from closure in 2006, but councillors are wary of “raising people’s expectations” in the face of what looks set to be a sea change in health and social care in the Province.

The consultation meeting with trust officials – including chief executive Sean Donaghy – and the council’s own deliberations since have been held behind closed doors. However, minutes published this week reveal that, apart from seeking and receiving an assurance that there will be public consultation on the future of the 40-bed Lisgarel home, members appear powerless in the face of the Transforming Your Care reforms.

The official report of the first health sub-committee meeting for many years, held on June 14, reveals that council chief executive Geraldine McGahey “stated that the committee should be considering how to prepare for the proposed phasing out of care homes .. and to establish the current position in relation to resident numbers etc”.

The minute continues: “Lengthy discussion followed as to the best approach to take without raising people’s expectations”, adding: “The chairman (Cllr Martin Wilson) stressed the need to bring the community along with the council and to work with the trust to gain something positive.”

Apart from discussion about domiciliary care and refurbishment of Larne Health Centre, the only action agreed was to ascertain if all non-elected members of the sub-committee are happy to serve again. It was reported that only one of the five had replied to an initial inquiry from council officers.

In the meantime, the elected members (Martin Wilson, Michael Lynch, Maureen Morrow and Bobby McKee) agreed that the starting point was to authorise Mrs McGahey to write to the trust “in a positive fashion to establish the baseline position”.

The next meeting of the reconstituted health sub-committee is scheduled for September 13.