Mr Robin Swann, the Ulster Unionist MLA for North Antrim has claimed that whoever is the new Minister for Health after May 11th must, as a matter of absolute priority, lift the ban on care homes in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust area admitting new permanent residents.
Mr Swann said; “It is now over two years that it was announced that most of Northern Ireland’s NHS residential care homes were being shut. That included the Pinewood in Ballymena, the Roddens in Ballymoney and Rathmoyle in Ballycastle. The Department of Health tried to claim that the timing was coincidental, yet the fact that a number of the Health and Social Care Trusts made very similar statements within a short space of time of each other, matters of days even, proved the decision to close most of our statutory homes was premeditated. Following a backlash from residents, their families and many ordinary members of the community, the then Minister Edwin Poots was forced into halting the flawed proposals.
“Yet in reality the threat to these homes has never been lifted. A strict ban on admitting new permanent admissions has meant that these homes have become increasingly unsustainable. The Department and the Northern Health Trust will shortly use the point of so many empty beds as justification to close the homes: despite them being directly responsible for it.
“The future of these homes has always been dependent on the non-admissions policy being lifted. Without the ability to admit new residents, closure remains absolutely inevitable.
“For many homes it is now over 3 years since a permanent resident was last admitted. By using this underhand tactic to close the premises by stealth, the Trust and the Department are not only limiting the number of places available for people who may wish to enter these homes, but they are forcing family and friends to travel longer distances to visit their loved ones and also putting jobs at risk. I know from family and friends who are and have been supported by these residential homes, of the high quality of care that is provided.
“Last year, after a further barrage of criticism, the then Health Minister Jim Wells announced that he was carrying out his own review of the non-admissions policy. Yet the review led to nothing. The appointment of a new Health Minister must now at least offers some opportunity that the shameful ban will be lifted.
“I will immediately be inviting the new Minister to North Antrim to meet with the care homes, staff and families in order for them to detail how their approach is going to differ to the malaise of the last two to three years.”