The families of the six remaining patients at Slievemore Nursing Unit - which is set to close on May 31 - have challenged Health Minister Edwin Poots to come to Derry to see first hand the care given to dementia sufferers at the unit and to hear the grave concerns of their loved ones over the closure plans.
So far Minister Poots has declined all invitations from the families to meet with them, the case having been made on their behalf from representatives of both Sinn Fein and the SDLP.
However in the light of the care home debacle last week, when the Minister was forced to do a u-turn in relation to consultation into the future of Trust operated care homes, supporters of Slievemore are now “putting pressure” on the Minister to meet them face to face.
Slievemore Nursing Unit provides care for patients with advanced dementia. A decision was made by the Western Trust earlier this year to close the unit after a report by regulating body RQIA found the building did not meet the recommended standards for a nursing unit.
However six patients remain in residence and their families say they are “digging their feet in for a long fight if necessary”.
Jane Dunton’s husband Tony is one of those affected.
He is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and retired teacher Jane says she “must fight on for him because he has no voice of his own”.
“I’m exhausted by it, but I believe it is my mission to fight for him. We want our families to stay in NHS care until the end of their time under the care of the specially trained staff that currently care for them.”
Mrs Dunton said that last week’s media spotlight on the care of the elderly in Northern Ireland had only served to anger her more about the treatment her husband and the other residents of Slievemore were facing.
“I feel as if a terrible injustice has been done to us,” she said.
“Last week it was decided that residents of Seymour would be ringfenced from the proposed closures because their’s is a specialist dementia unit.
“Our families are further down that road and are facing eviction.
“They are being thrown to the wolves, and while this is going on the Minister takes time out to discuss football anthems.
“We want him to face up to what he is doing. He should come here, see our family members, our loved ones. Spend time with people who cannot speak for themselves or share a cup of tea with him and listen to our concerns.”
One of Mrs Dunton’s biggest concerns is that should her husband or any of the other dementia patients be moved, their health will be dramatically and adversely affected.
“We already know of two of the residents of Slievemore, who bowed down to pressure, and were moved and their health has suffered greatly. One gentleman is refusing food, refusing liquids and refusing his medication. He has ended up in hospital,” she claimed.
“We cannot allow this to happen to our old people.”
Mrs Dunton and the other relatives have set up a Facebook page - Save Slievemore - and are asking for public support.
Today Jane will attend a protest at Rectory Field Care Home in the Waterside, which was one of those included in the consultation process last week, before attending a meeting of Derry City Council to ask for their support.
“We are giving our full support to the staff and patients of all the residential care homes who are threatened with closure,” Mrs Dunton said.
“But we are worried that in all the furore we are getting forgotten about, and our closure is imminent. The pressure is on us now and we have to put pressure on the decision makers.
“We only have until the 31st of May, but the longer this goes on the more dug in we are getting. We are determined not to give up.”