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Stormont rally against closure of NHS-run residential homes

79-year-old Bill Larkam at the Unison protest at Stormont yesterday over cuts to NHS-run residential homes. Picture by Hugh Russell
Seanín Graham

MORE than 200 protesters opposed to the planned closure of 10 NHS residential care homes staged a rally at Stormont yesterday.

Relatives of loved ones being cared in homes, along with some residents, demanded that a ban on permanent admissions to the facilities are lifted.

Homes in Belfast, Derry, Kilkeel, Ballymena and Cookstown are among those under threat.

There was a public outcry two years over the shambolic handling of government plans to close NHS-run homes.

Former DUP health minister Edwin Poots issued an apology and made an eleventh-hour u-turn, in which he allowed existing residents to stay in homes but banned new admissions.

Yesterday's rally, organised by the trade union Unison, comes as some health trusts have gone out to public consultation on the issue.

The move is part of a massive health reform programme, under which there is an increasing concentration on caring for people in their own homes as opposed to residential care.

However, there are concerns about a lack of adequate resources invested in community packages to deliver the scheme.

Joe McCusker of Unison said most of the homes earmarked for closure are filled with temporary admissions and patients requiring respite.

"We believe if you lifted the admissions ban tomorrow then all these homes would be filled," he said.

"The Health and Social Care Board has not provided us with enough evidence that closing the homes is financially viable. Meanwhile, residents and their families are enduring considerable distress over their future.

"Some areas will be left with no NHS-run homes at all if this goes ahead.

"We cannot afford to walk away from the care needs of our elders. Neither can our politicians."

The full list of residential care homes which face closure is:

- Chestnut Grove and Pine Lodge in Belfast

- William Street and Rectory Field in Derry

- Northfield House in Donaghadee, Co Down

- Slieve Roe in Kilkeel, Co Down

- The Roddens in Ballymoney, Co Antrim

- Pinewood in Ballymena, Co Antrim

- Westlands in Cookstown, Co Tyrone

- Roxborough House in Moy, Co Tyrone

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