Slievemore Nursing Unit staff in limbo over closure

Slievemore Nursing Unit.

Slievemore Nursing Unit.

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Concerns have been raised that staff at Slievemore Nursing Unit are being left in limbo amid claims that the facility is to shut down within weeks.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood

SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood has now called on to Health Minister Jim Wells to “come clean” over the plans for the unit.

The Assemblyman spoke last night as a source told the Journal that the unit could now be closed as early as next month.

It is understood that there are currently over 20 people employed by the Western Trust on a full-time basis at the nursing unit. Some of them have worked there since it opened in October 1994.

There are currently still five residents with dementia 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 unit, located between St Brigid’s College and Northside Shopping Centre.

The announcement sparked a major ‘Save Slievemore’ campaign to keep it open, and a stay of execution was secured after relatives took their fight directly to the then Health Minister Edwin Poots.

The Western Health and Social Services Trust meanwhile been engaged in mediation with the families of the remaining patients at the unit since early 2012.

A source said the staff had been under the impression that the unit would not be closing until next year at the earliest, but this now seemed to have changed.

He said: “The staff there have been told absolutely nothing for the past year and a half, despite promises that they would be fully informed. It seems they are being kept in the dark.”

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said: “I’ve been made aware of concerns that the unit will be closed this side of Christmas with the remaining five residents being moved to the Waterside Hospital.

“Staff, some of whom have worked at the Slievemore facility since it was opened 20 years ago, are growing increasingly concerned for their futures and deserve to be told what is in the pipeline for them.

“Should the unit be facing imminent closure it is unacceptable that the staff have been left in the dark by the Western Trust.”

Mr Eastwood continued: “I have called on the Health Minister to reveal as a matter of urgency the plans for the future of Slievemore Nursing Unit and staffing arrangements at the facility.”

The Western Health Trust was unable to deliver a response to the concerns raised by last night.

The Department for Health meanwhile was also unable to give an immediate response at the time of going to press last night, but is understood to be looking into the matter.