A meeting between families of residents of Slievemore House in Derry and the north’s Health Minister has been welcomed in the city.
SDLP MP Mark Durkan said it is important Edwin Poots visits Derry to see firsthand the care given to dementia sufferers at the unit and hear the grave concerns of relatives over the closure plans.
“The Slievemore Nursing Unit families cannot understand how their relatives are still expected to suffer summary closure and dislocation from their home while the Minister has recently offered assurances that vulnerable elderly people should not be relocated against their wishes,” the MP said.
“I have put it to the Minister that he has presented his intervention over Trust plans for Transforming Your Care as a reaction to a policy going out of control in the eyes of the public.
“But the Slievemore families fear that their loved ones are suffering a policy and regulatory instrument which is exceeding its due or intended control.”
He added:“Those families and public representatives have been told by the Trust that the move for summary closure of Slievemore is entirely at the behest of RQIA (Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority) who find themselves unfamiliar with the ‘Ward in the Community’ care model, have issues about room sizes (about which no-one has complained) and imposed a deadline for closure on penalty of prosecution.
“In the current circumstances it is incumbent on the Minister to personally reflect on the implications for these vulnerable elderly patients just as he has shown himself to do in relation to elderly residents in some Trust care homes.
“It is not sufficient for him to contend that such arbitrary and sweeping determinations by RQIA cannot be questioned by him or balanced by other human factors.
“Indeed, if he tries to hold such a line, those who are trying to believe in the Minister’s confusing assurances about the future of care homes will have every ground to fear that future summary determinations by RQIA will become the device and excuse for forcing distressing home closures and the forced removal of vulnerable elderly people.”
Sinn Fein MLA Maeve McLaughlin also welcomed the meeting.
“It’s very important that the Minister hears at first hand the concerns of the families affected by this proposed closure.
I have met with the families and also raised this issue with the Older peoples commissioner Claire Keatinge at a meeting in Stormont on Monday afternoon,” she said.
“I have also put in an urgent question to Minister Poots calling on him that in light of the recent decision to reverse proposals for closure of residential care homes to also include Slievemore nursing home Derry in this decision.
“While I am in favour of Transforming Care strategy, I am also concerned that this could be privatisation through the back door
“Whatever changes come through this strategy the fundamental principle of the health service, healthcare free at the point of delivery, cannot be altered
“There needs to be accommodation through the NHS for care homes as we cannot have a situation where individuals who don’t have family support fall between the cracks and are left neglected in their final years.”