Fresh concerns over care unit

Slievemore Nursing Unit.
Slievemore Nursing Unit.
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Health chiefs have failed to address major concerns over the future of Slievemore Nursing Unit and its workers.

Both the Western Health and Social Care Trust and the Department for Health have refused to state whether the nursing unit will be shut down within weeks, as workers fear.

Ongoing confidential mediation talks with the families of the remaining residents at Slievemore- who are understood to all suffer from Alzheimer’s has been cited as the reason for the lack of clarity over its future.

The authorities stand accused to keeping the 23 full-time workers at Slievemore in the dark over their future.

SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood, who voiced concerns for the workers earlier this week, said there was now a lack of clarity from the health authorities that was “simply not good enough”.

He told the Journal: “It is absolutely not good enough. What we are talking about is people’s jobs with no guarantee of redeployment.

“Even if the current patients in Slievemore are looked after and given a bed elsewhere we are losing a service to the community so people coming behind these current occupants won’t have a facility to go to and that in a way is the bigger concern.

“We are losing a service in the community and the Trust need to come out and explain to the people of the area why they are doing this.

“This is also an area that has already lost its Benefits’ Office and this is another example of how this huge area with very little resources is losing it. This is the last thing we need.”

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“We need to be improving services in the Shantallow area, not running them down and closing them,” Mr Eastwood added.

A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said: “The former Health Minister asked the Western Trust to engage in a mediation process with the families of Slievemore Nursing Unit patients in April 2014 following a proposal to close the facility as part of the Trust’s redesign of older people’s mental health services.

“This mediation process has been on-going during this time and maintaining the confidentiality of discussions between the Trust and patients’ families has been of utmost importance to the Trust.

“The Western Trust will not be making any further comment at this time until the mediation process is complete. When this happens, the Trust will issue a joint statement with the families of the remaining Slievemore patients.”

A Department for Health spokeswoman meanwhile added similarly: “In April 2014, following a proposal to close Slievemore Nursing Unit as part of the Western Trust’s redesign of older people’s mental health services, the then Health Minister asked the Western Trust to engage in a mediation process with the families of patients at the unit.

“This mediation process remains ongoing and to maintain the confidentiality of discussions between the Trust and patients’ families, the Department is unable to comment further until the process is complete.”

A source earlier this week told the Journal that the unit could now be closed as early as next month.

Some of them have worked there since it opened in October 1994.

There are currently still five residents being looked after at Slievemore, but it is understood alternative arrangements are being made for them in conjunction with their families.

The Western Trust announced two years ago that they were planning to close the unite, sparked a major ‘Save Slievemore’ campaign.