IN an effort to fend off what one councillor is calling “a direct attack on the elderly”, Dromore residents are being called to action again in defence of Skeagh House.

Leading campaigners are urging locals to turn out in force for a public meeting in Dromore Town Hall tonight (Tuesday), when a representative of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust will be on hand to offer an insight into Trust thinking on the future of care services for the elderly, including statutory residential care.

Tonight’s meeting follows a brief gathering of the Skeagh House Action Committee, whose members have signalled a willingness to discuss with the Trust “a range of options” to ensure the viability of the Dromore residential home and so stave off the renewed threat posed by Stormont Health Minister Edwin Poots’ launch, in October last year, of public consultation on ‘Transforming Your Care: From Vision into Action’.

A defiant Councillor Carol Black, chairperson of the SHAC, said she was not prepared to stand by and see the end of Skeagh House four years after it was successfully saved from closure by a campaign taking in carers, politicians, trade unions, churches and the wider public.

“As a local councillor,” she said, “I am disgusted once again that the Dromore community has to face this agonising situation; it’s a direct attack on our elderly and the most vulnerable people in society and one that the Skeagh House Action Committee will not be taking lightly.”

Ms. Black said she would not stand back and see Skeagh House join Dromore’s Northern Bank branch and Police Station in closure.

“This (Skeagh House) is a vital facility and one that has been in town for over 30 years,” she said. “It employs local people and our schools and nurseries have a wonderful relationship with the residents, one that would be sorely missed.

“We must not forget the real issue here and that is that the elderly residents who gave up their homes, for whatever reason, want to make Skeagh House their place of residence for the later part of their lives.

“It is also a lifeline for many who rely on the facility to help them with respite in looking after their family members; they don’t want to be travelling outside the area when most of them have lived in Dromore and surrounding areas all their lives.”

Committee vice-chairperson, Louis Boyle, said it was hoped residents’ relatives, political representatives and the wider public would attend tonight’s meeting, to voice their concerns and views and to agree a response on behalf of the Action Committee to the ongoing consultation on the future of health and social services.

Consultation closes on Tuesday, January 15, by which time the SHAC must have made its submission.

“It should be noted,” said Mr. Boyle, “that we recognise that in order for Skeagh House to survive it must be viable, and to do that we are ready to look, with the Trust, at a range of options, so that on a multi-agency basis, together with the community, Skeagh House could remain as a resource for older people in Dromore and district.

“The home has been a centre of excellent care services for the elderly for over 30 years and its closure would be a major loss of a resource to Dromore.”

Tonight’s meeting is to take place in Dromore Town Hall from 7.30pm.