The Western Trust has announced that the four residential care homes recently saved from closure in the north west may soon be used for additional health care services.
Trust chief executive Elaine Way confirmed at this month’s meeting of the Western Health and Social Care Trust Board that all four homes would remain open.
Her comments came after Health Minister Edwin Poots said last month that all homes under threat across the north would not now be closed.
The move was warmly welcomed by staff and residents at William Street and Rectory Field in Derry, as well as those at Greenfield in Strabane and Thackeray Place in Limavady.
The shock announcement by Mr Poots came a year after it emerged that the local homes were among those subjected to proposals that could have seen them closed down.
Mrs Way told the May meeting of the board: “I reported last month that consultation had just closed. Since the last board meeting, as you are aware, the Minister has visited four homes including Thackeray in our area and he has made the announcement the residential homes will remain open.
“The current position is he has asked the Health and Social Care Board to examine whether or not there might be alternative uses for the homes such as, for example, a ‘step-down’ facility.”
Mrs Way elaborated that this would be for people coming out of hospital but who were not quite ready to go back to their own homes yet.
She added: “At this moment in time we will not be taking any action on the four homes we were proposing to consult on.
“We are the only Trust in Northern Ireland which has not suspended the admissions policy and we continue to admit to residential homes where necessary,albeit our numbers, like elsewhere, are reducing.”
Mrs Way told the board that permanent resident occupancy rates at the Derry and Strabane homes stood at around 50%, whereas at Thackeray the rates were higher at around 75%.
The vacant beds at the facilities are being used for temporary residents and also for respite care. It was said at the meeting that broadening the usage of the homes will require additional staff with different skills.