Dr Buehler pictured with her pet who had cataracts. After his operation he can now see again.
Dr Buehler pictured with her pet who had cataracts. After his operation he can now see again.

By Patricia Devlin

IT was a visit to Cookstown that initiated a dramatic U-turn by Health Minister Edwin Poots on plans to close care homes across the province.

Just hours after listening to the heart touching please of residents at Westlands Residential Home, including 92 year-old Jean Faulkner, the Minister announced on Friday he was stripping health trust of powers to close care homes.

In a critical attack on the Northern, Southern and Western Trusts, Mr Poots told the MAIL that his Transforming Your Care (TYC) proposals to shut half of statutory care homes were “badly handled” and had “damaged” Transforming Your Care.

“I was deeply concerned at the distress that was evident and caused in this facility,” he told the MAIL on the doorstep of the Westland Road home.

“I wanted to come and speak to the residents personally and give them reassurance that them that their voice will be heard.

“I have heard their voice and I am going up now to speak to the Trust and pass it on.

“What I am here to do is to listen to people who have clearly been distressed by the news that they have received, pay attention to what they have to say and reflect that to others and ensure we do things right,” he added.

Before leaving for an emergency meeting with the Health and Social Care Board, Mr Poots said: “The first thing that I will be saying to them is that this process has been very badly handled in terms of causing distress to elderly people, and it has damaged Transforming Your Care (TYC) and that we need to get Transforming Your Care back on track.”

During the meeting with senior Trust executives Mr Poots to drop their current closure policy.

He told them had serious concerns about engagement with individuals and families over the proposed closures.

Following the meeting HSCB Director of Social Care and Children’s Services, Fionnuala McAndrew, who also attended Westlands with the Health Minister, said: “The Board and the Trusts have listened to the views of older people, relatives and staff.

“We are firmly committed to ensuring that older people, such as Mrs Faulkner, receive the care they need now and into the future, and that they have a say in how their needs are met.

“It will be critical over the coming days and months, to provide reassurance and support for those residents, families and staff who have been affected over the last 10 days, and we are seeking meetings as early as possible with the Commissioner for Older People and other groups such as Age NI to discuss how this can be best achieved for each individual.”

She added: “It is absolutely essential that the views of older people and their relatives, and in particular those currently living in residential care, are heard and listened to.”