Trade unionists and local political representatives have expressed outrage at Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) proposals to close the Rectory Field and William Street care homes in Londonderry.
The local homes are amongst ten, which have been proposed for eventual closure.
Unison Regional Organiser, Joe McCusker said: “This will cause distress and alarm for residents in those homes knowing that they will be the last residents, while the local communities will be outraged that there will be no NHS residential care provision in their area.
Mr McCusker added: “If these proposals get approval from the Health Minister, this means that in major towns and cities across Northern Ireland such as Derry and Ballymena, there will be no NHS residential care provision and no choice for people to avail of statutory residential care.
“Unison has been at the forefront of the campaign against the closure of NHS Residential Care Homes and we will continue our fight in partnership with local communities, residents and families to keep the homes open.”
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said: “When the Western Trust first announced plans to close these homes as part of the Transforming Your Care Programme in 2013, elderly residents took to the streets in protest.
“They were assured that the homes would remain open with no decision to be made until 2015.
“It seems that the decision taken then has only been deferred and it is disappointing that the residents, their families and staff now find themselves in the same position of uncertainty.
“The care facilities at William Street and Rectory Field provide for some of the most vulnerable in our society. Any decisions made on the future of the homes must be taken with their best interests in mind, not budget cuts masquerading as reform.
“Derry is a city with an ageing population and it is important that care home provision is adequate to meet our needs. Any moves to close these homes should be and will be opposed.”
Fionnuala McAndrew, Director of Social Care and Children with the Health and Social Care Board said: “Over the past two years, the Health and Social Care Board has co-ordinated a process to clarify the future role and function of statutory residential care as part of a broad range of services for older people across Northern Ireland.
“I acknowledge that this has been a difficult time for residents, their relatives, carers and staff and the wider communities supporting statutory residential homes for older people.
“I have listened carefully to the views of all those who have taken the time to contribute to this process of engagement. I want to thank everyone who contributed and, in particular, the residents, their relatives and staff of the residential homes that I visited over the last year.”
Mrs McAndrew continued: “I am confident that the recommendations set out in the Trusts’ proposals will help us achieve a balance between continuing to care for the current residents of statutory homes appropriately, as well as progressing plans for addressing the future needs and preferences of our population of Northern Ireland.”
“There will always be a need for some level of residential care but the changing trends and desires of people must be taken into account too as we plan for the future. It is important that Trusts provide the best possible level of care alongside the need to change and modernise their services.” she added.
With reference to the issue of non-admissions to some homes, it was agreed in June 2014 by the Board, that the position regarding permanent admissions be maintained until Trusts’ proposals for change were agreed.
There will be no immediate change to current admissions positions therefore until after local Trusts’ consultations have taken place.
A copy of the Board’s report, Trusts’ proposals and LCGs assessments can be viewed or downloaded from the Health and Social Care Board’s website from 12 noon on May 20, 2015 at: http://www.hscboard.hscni.net/board/meetings/May%202015/