Proposed care facility closure creates “chaos and confusion”

April 29, 2013

After almost forty years providing care for the elderly, Cloughreagh House residential care home is to close its doors.

On Friday the Southern Trust announced it is to close all five of its NHS homes, one of which is Cloughreagh.  Having already ceased admitting long-term residents, the Trust said respite and day care services at the facility would not be affected.

The proposed closure is part of a wide-ranging reform of the provision of care for the elderly across the north and although there is to be a consultation period, it is widely believed this will just be a formality and will make no difference to the inevitable outcome.

Under the Transforming Your Care reform programme, NHS services will focus on helping elderly people to live in their own homes for as long as possible, rather than providing residential care.

The decision to cease permanent admissions ahead of the consultation process was taken to “minimise the number of residents who will be affected as the number of homes reduce”, Angela McVeigh, the Southern Trust’s Director of Older People and Primary Care, said,

“This decision was taken following the [Health] Minister’s decision to reduce statutory residential care, and will not affect the large number of people the Trust has placed in private residential care and nursing home care,” she said.

“We are committed to treating each resident as an individual and working with them and their families and carers to ensure their needs are met through any change to the home in which they currently live.  There will be focus on helping people remain at home for as long as possible, and offering more choice and control about the type of care available.

“The Trust has already introduced a range of new enhanced services which support people at home for instance, reablement, access to rapid access clinics for older people and better use of technology such as telemonitoring and telecare, all of which help to support people at home for longer,” Ms McVeigh added.

However, SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley says the news further fuels his party’s suspicion that the Health Minister “is intent on destroying the ethos of the NHS by replacing it with stealth privatization”.

“The announcement has created chaos and confusion amongst residents and their families, who have been left without answers as to what the future holds for their loved ones.

“People are rightly angry and frustrated at the Minister’s ruthless approach where it appears that some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being let down as a result of his uncompromising determination to privatise the very institution which we have proudly boasted as our own for so many years,” Mr Bradley said.

Describing Cloughreagh home as “a vital service in the Newry and greater South Armagh area” he claimed the Trust has suspended admissions to Cloughreagh in advance of the proposed public consultation,  pre-empting the consultation and  effectively closing it due to lack of admissions.

“This is a done deal and makes a mockery of any consultation,” he said, and called on the Minister to bring forward legislation to protect the health and social care system from privatization.

“I have warned him of the dangers of effectively mortgaging our health service to private, profit-driven organisations who are motivated by money making. By privatising the system, the Minister is allowing profit to replace patient as the focus in the health service, and destroying an institution which has always put the patient first.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Pat McGinn says the local community is deeply saddened and holds the view that the reform programme is more about financial reform than patient needs.

“Cloughreagh House has been part of this community for a long time and we have always been proud of how it has provided the highest quality of service, care and activities for its residents,” he said.

“The “Transforming Your Care” review of health care provision states that the NHS will focus on helping elderly to live in their own home for as long as possible. In theory for those who wish to avail of that service, it may be grand; however there seems to be scant regard to the many impacting issues which have not been taken into consideration.

“What about those elderly people who want to retain a level of independent living but in a managed, loving, caring and safe environment?  I and many others have yet to be convinced that proper financial resources, community care provision and support structures will be available to implement these proposals. This is not about ‘Transforming your Care’, it’s about ‘let someone else care’,” he added.

UUP MLA Danny Kennedy says the closure of Cloughreagh House will impact on some of society’s most vulnerable.

“These people deserve to have their voices heard.  I would like the Southern Trust to explain what care packages they intend to put in place and if they will be facilitating new supported housing units,” Mr Kennedy said.

“I will also be seeking some clarity on the issue from the Health Minister, Edwin Poots. I would like to hear what alternatives are being proposed by the Health Minister and how the intention of the Southern Trust to close the residential homes fits with his comments of 23rd February 2009 that ‘if we go down the route of doing away with statutory residential care, we could end up with a situation similar to that in England, where care in residential private nursing homes is of a much lower standard than we would expect for our elderly people’,” he added.