Over a thousand local people have added their signatures to the campaign to save a popular elderly unit at South Tyrone Hospital.
Petitions have been signed at businesses and shops in Dungannon, Ballygawley, Augher, Eglish and Benburb, with the campaign spreading to other villages in East and South Tyrone in the coming days.
A public consultation on the future of the Southern Trust operated unit is due to be made in June.
“Loane House in South Tyrone Hospital deals with elderly and confused patients and there is a fear that it will be closed”, said Sinn Fein MLA Bronwyn McGahan, who has organised the petition.
“If this unit is closed then patients may be forced to be situated in Newry which is unacceptable for families who attend their relatives on a daily basis.
“I know personally of elderly and vulnerable carers who are forced to travel as far away as Lurgan to visit their loved ones. This is an added stress especially on the rural population.
“I have initiated a petition and I would ask everyone in the local community to sign it in order to let the Minister of Health Edwin Poots realise the depth of feeing in the local community to this proposed closure.
“I would like to thank all the local businesses and centres that have taken the petition and are supporting the campaign.
“If there in no petition in your area I would ask you to contact my office where they will be available.”
In addition, the Fermanagh and South Tyrone representative has raised the alarm over the possible closure of a further elderly unit at Mullinure, which will lead to the loss of 30 beds.