Minister apologises for residential care homes fiasco

May 13, 2013

Health Minister Edwin Poots has apologised for the distress caused to residents of care home facilities that had been earmarked for closure over the last two weeks.

The Examiner reported on the chaos and confusion caused by the announcement by the Southern Trust at the end of last month that it was set to close all five of its NHS homes, one of which is Cloughreagh House.  The news that the local care home was to close after almost forty years of providing care for the elderly sparked much anger and frustration among local representatives, with elderly residents and their families saddened and distressed by the imminent upheaval.

In the wake of public outcry throughout the province over the proposed closures, Minister Poots made a u-turn decision instructing representatives of all the Northern Ireland health trusts to drop their current closure policy.

He withdrew all power to implement the policy from the trusts and indicated that the process would be centralised at a regional level.

Addressing the health committee at a special meeting called last week to address the handling of the closure of residential care homes, Mr Poots said he did not take on his role “to make old people cry or kill babies” and added that it was “unacceptable” that families had been upset by the plans.  The Minister insisted that he wanted to bring about change for the better, without causing hurt to elderly people in the interim.

The chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board, John Compton, also apologised for their mishandling of the issue which, they admitted, had only caused people unnecessary misery.

“The distress caused to elderly people was something which I found wholly unacceptable and we have to look at how we did things and how we ensure that doesn’t happen again,” Mr Poots said.

However, the future of certain care home facilities still remains uncertain as the Minister maintained that the concept of the Transforming Your Care proposals was still the right concept.

“We want to provide better care for our elderly population, we want to ensure they have the greatest amount of independence while having robust support that ensures they remain safe and as well as they possibly can” he said.

“If these buildings (care homes) are not fit for purpose, if the conditions that people are spending their latter years in are unacceptable – and they are – we do intend to close those facilities.

“However, we never did intend to do so causing stress to the individuals that are in those facilities.”