The aims of a Unison led campaign against controversial proposals to close a number of residential care homes have been broadly supported across the political spectrum.
The Adair Arms Hotel in Ballymena was the venue for a public meeting aimed at highlighting the issue.
Among those attending was Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay who accused the Health Trust of introducing a ‘no admissions’ policy in order to ‘run down’ such homes.
“This isn’t over as far as I am concerned. If you look at the Northern Trust’s demographics, the population in over 65s and over 85s is going through the roof. So here we have a situation where the population in this area is getting older, more so than anywhere else in the North and we are closing our care homes. That doesn’t make sense. No matter how they present it, it doesn’t make sense.”
Mr, McKay contended that the plans would have a drastic impact, especially on rural communities in areas like North Antrim.
He said: “Looking at the maps in the consultation there is a huge gap across North Antrim, parts of Tyrone and County Derry. Where is the rural impact assessment on this? We are all rural people, all of the homes that are remaining open, and they are entitled to stay open, are more towards the greater Belfast area.
“We need to shout from the roof tops about the fact that the rural communities are going to suffer more so that anywhere else in terms of provisions for residential care homes.”
North Antrim DUP assemblyman, Paul Frew noted that a number of homes have been spared throughout the country and pointed out that the previous health Minister Edwin Poots had given a personal commitment to residents of Ballymena’s Pinewood and other homes that no one would be moved out whilst their needs and requirements could be met in that setting. That was an important stance and brought relief to the residents, some of whom have now sadly passed on.”
Mr. Frew said the Trust’s proposal to change Pinewood Residential care home into a rehabilitation unit catering for Antrim and Ballymena was worthy of consideration.
He said: “I like the sound of a rehabilitation unit in Ballymena where we would have intermediate beds in the area for the first time in a very long time but I am not convinced that we should be getting this resource at the expense of statutory residential care beds.
“By righting a wrong that was created many years ago by creating another wrong now doesnt make sense.”
Ulster Unionist Robin Swann was fearful that Pinewood would not even see the end of the consultation period in its current format.
“I have already been made aware of an increase in the frequency of assessments of some residents, in what I believe to be a cynical move to prove that their needs can no longer be met.
“The proposal the Trust has put forward is that Pinewood will be further developed as a rehabilitation facility and that will require capital spend,
“I have asked where this money is to come from, as I can find no indication of it being budgeted for or even a business case being produced.
“I am a firm believer that the NHS should be about people and not bricks and mortar, in this case the Trust is looking at Pinewood as bricks and mortar and are forgetting about the people.