Politicians react to Westlands proposals

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POLITICIANS across the political divide have expressed their dismay at plans to shut Westlands Residential Home in Cookstown.

Leading calls for the home to be saved was Cookstown District Councillor Maureen Lees whose brother-in-law resides at the facility.

Speaking at meeting with other relatives of those currently placed in the residential home, councillor Lees said that Cookstown District Council, along with all 16 elected representatives were committed to saving Westlands.

“I am absolutely astounded that this home has been proposed for closure. This is not only a home, it is people’s lives.

Mid-Ulster MLA Michelle O’Neill, who lead a delegation of Sinn Fein representatives to meet with Sean Donaghy, Northern Trust Chief Executive on the issue, said the proposals from the Northern Trust were causing a “great deal” of concern and distress in the community.

She said: “As a major employer in the Mid-Ulster area the Northern Trust has a responsibility to its staff and clearly needs to engage with them in a very honest and open manner as to how they will be affected by these proposals.

“We are concerned that this change in service delivery will lead to increased problems further down the road in trying to meet the demand for services within the home.

“Given the increasing life span of the population the needs of the community will be greater and more complex, the Trust has a responsibility to ensure that funding is available to meet those needs and that the health and wellbeing of older people are the priority.

The Mid-Ulster Assembly woman added: “Sinn Féin will be engaging with the local community, with families and with the Northern Trust to ensure that the views are heard and respected. We will also be seeking to hear from the Trust their plans for service delivery in the months and years ahead.”

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said the proposals further fuel suspicions that Transforming Your Care (TYC) is a charter for the stealth privatisation of the health and social care system in the province.

“Today we renew our call on the Minister for Health to make a firm commitment to bring forward legislation to protect the health and social care system for privatisation.

“The NHS matters to people here. We are also very proud of the fact that our health service is integrated with our social care system.

“The public do not want to see the private sector taking a lead role in health and social care delivery. Nor does it make sense from a policy or long term financial point of view.

“By pursuing a private sector led approach to new builds in health care or the building and provision of nursing or care homes, we are effectively mortgaging a public service to organisations that are driven by the need to make money.

Mr McGlone added: “Today’s decision is not a progressive one. It is short sighted and will in the long run be regretted.”

Magherafelt Sinn Féin councillor Sean McPeake has called on the Trust to clarify its intentions on the future of residential care homes.

“The news that local Health Trusts are planning to close their care homes has come as a shock to many especially those residents in care homes and their families.

“I am concerned that this is privatisation by the back door and therefore calling on the Trusts to outline their plans in detail. The DUP Health Minister, Edwin Poots had told us that ‘Transforming Your Care’ is about putting services into the community that would help with early intervention and prevention if needed and it was recommended that there would be a 50% reduction in care homes across the whole of the North.

“This is because the majority of older people wish to be cared for in their homes as long as possible. That would see more care being provided to people in their own homes through care packages and more resources being put into respite for carers.

Councillor McPeake added: “There definitely has been a lack of consultation and information from the Health Trusts and they need to clarify their position on the future of care homes.

“My party colleague, and Chair of the Assembly’s Health committee, Sue Ramsey MLA has asked for an urgent meeting with relevant Health officials today (Monday) to find out exactly what is happening.”