TUV leader Jim Allister laid the blame for care home closures at the door of the DUP when he attended a UNISON protest meeting at Pinewood in Ballymena at the weekend.
Mr. Allister who was joined by Mid & East Antrim Deputy Mayor, Timothy Gaston and Ulster Unionist Robin Swann, said there had been a deliberate attempt by the DUP to closre residential homes.
“Do not be deceived by those who pretend the closure agenda is all the work of the Trust and that the minister is blameless. The Trust is but a front organisation for the department, doing the minister’s bidding. The surreptitious agenda is based on closure by stealth.
“The denial of new admissions - which is the minister’s policy - is designed to deny the homes viability and makes a mockery of the consultation. You can’t deny admissions and then conduct a consultation which is anything other than farcical and preordained in its intended outcome.
“Likewise the assurance that no resident will be forced out is not worth as much as it seems, because of the minister’s caveat “so long as it is safe for them to stay”. When the time comes, I fear, many a supposed health and safety concern will be contrived to speed the process.”
Cllr Timothy Gaston added:“It is shocking that this wonderful home has been subjected to repeated attempts to closure and have been banned from taking any new admissions.”
Robin Swann MLA said he was proud to take part in the protests against care home closures. “The policy of closures should be rejected,” he said.
“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,” added Mr. Swann.
A spokesman for the Northern Trust outlined their position last week, stating: “It is important that we plan for the future in meeting the needs of older people, in terms of their aspirations and the support services that will be required. All of our proposals were approved for consultation by the Health and Social Care Board and our consultation runs until 2 October 2015.
“At this stage nothing is agreed but the proposals relate to the Trust continuing to provide residential care at Lisgarel in Larne, Clonmore in Newtownabbey, Joymount in Carrickfergus and Rosedale in Antrim and to resume permanent admissions to these homes once the consultation process has concluded.
“However, due to the availability of suitable alternative accommodation, we are proposing to phase out residential care provision at The Roddens in Ballymoney, Westlands in Cookstown and Pinewood in Ballymena. At Westlands, there is potential to develop the site as a community health and social care hub and at Pinewood in Ballymena it is proposed to develop this unit as a rehabilitation facility to cover the Ballymena and Antrim areas. At this point, there are no alternative plans for the use of The Roddens but in common with other statutory organisations, the Trust has a policy of exploring all options in relation to sites which are no longer considered integral to the delivery of Trust services.
“We fully support the former Ministerial commitment that existing permanent and long term temporary residents in statutory residential homes will be allowed to remain in their home as long as they wish and as long as their needs can continue to be met there. This means that the proposals do not present any change for those residents.