Family pleads for future of Skeagh House

THE daughter of an elderly resident of Skeagh House said she is pleading with the Health Minister to re-think plans to cut the number of care homes across Northern Ireland by half.

Minister Edwin Poots announced what he called “a vision of a new model of care” during a meeting of the Assembly last week, but his plans have been rubbished by those who say it will affect them most.

Liz Nesbitt, who’s 91-year-old father is in his third year of residency with Skeagh House in Dromore, said the thought the home might close and her father may have to move elsewhere is “sad and hurtful”.

“It would be an awful shame,” said Liz. “I don’t know what my family would do if the home closed.”

Faced with the prospect of having to put her father into a private care home, Liz said she has no idea how she could cover the cost.

A number of MLAs have already criticised the Minister’s plans as moving towards privatising healthcare.

Of the five care homes in the Southern Trust area, including Crozier House in Banbridge and Skeagh House in Dromore, at least two are expected to close in the coming years.

Mr Poots said the proposals were “focused on ensuring that more services are provided in the community, closer to people’s homes where possible.

“It is about prevention, earlier interventions, promoting health and well-being and having more personalised care that is planned and delivered around the needs of the individual and tailored as far as possible to suit them.”

He denied the move was motivated by budget cuts.

But Liz said the idea of increasing community care is not satisfactory.

“My father was looked after by carers before he went to Skeagh and they had no time - they were always rushing on to their next patient. They were in and out.

“My father is in a home because he is not fit to live at home. Being looked after by carers coming to the house is simply not an option.”

Liz went on to praise the staff at Skeagh House who she said were “excellent”.

They are so good,” said Liz. “We are so happy with the care that he gets there. If there is ever an issue I’m told about it straight away.

“The home is kept beautifully. But it’s not about the look of the place, it is about the standard of care and it so high at Skeagh House.”

Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson appealed to the Minister to focus on the “human impact” of his decision.

“I have been inundated by families who are concerned for the future of their elderly relatives who are residents in Southern Trust care homes following the announcement by the Minister which heralds future closures,” said Mrs Dobson.

“The public will be asking what the primary aim of the Department is; is it the health of the elderly and vulnerable or the health of its own budget?

“The Health Minister has said that his ‘new model’ of care will focus on giving people the ability to remain in their own homes. However, many of those who have approached me in recent days have said have very deep concerns for their relatives who would simply not be able to cope with their care if left at home.

“They fear that for many elderly and vulnerable people this decision could lead to a deterioration in their level of care as confusion over medication and the increasing risk of accidents in the home could have an adverse effect on their health.”

Mrs Dobson said the Trust had confirmed to her that they are working towards reducing the homes in the area by two in the next three years.

“These care homes offer an excellent level of care to their residents,” said Mrs Dobson. “I believe that for the Minister to claim, in justification of closures, that statutory care homes often ‘do not meet the standards for room sizes, overhead hoists and so forth that would be available in many other facilities’ and also are ‘perhaps not as good as a facility that is available in the private sector,’ pre-judged the consultation process.

“I urge the public to take part in the consultation and to take this opportunity to make their views known regarding the future structure for the care of the elderly within the local area.”

The consultation ‘From Vision to Action’ – is available from the website www.TYCconsultation.hscni.net.