The new Deputy Mayor of Antrim has reacted furiously to the announcement from the Health and Social Care Board over admitssions to care homes.
The board is recommending yet further reviews on whether or not a number of care homes across Northern Ireland should be allowed to admit new permanent residents.
Alderman Drew Ritchie said the Health Minister needs to take immediate control of the situation.
“Last year it was announced that most of Northern Ireland’s public residential care homes were being shut,” Alderman Ritchie said.
He added: “The fact that a number of the Health and Social Care Trusts made very similar statements within a short space of time of each other, matters of days even, gave me the impression that the decision to close most of our statutory homes was premeditated.”
Following a backlash from residents, and their families, Health Minister Edwin Poots called a halt to the proposals.
“The future of these homes has always been dependent on the non-admissions policy, which is in place across many of them, being lifted,” Alderman Ritchie said.
He added that without the ability to admit new residents, closure remains absolutely inevitable. Any argument otherwise is totally insincere.
“In some areas, such as the Northern HSC Trust, it is over two years since a permanent resident was last admitted,” Ald. Ritchie said.
He added: “By commencing yet further review processes, the Health and Social Care Board are continuing to inflict immense damage to these homes.
“They are not only limiting the number of places available for people who may wish to enter these homes, but they are forcing family and friends to travel longer distances to visit their loved ones and also putting jobs at risk.
“I know from family and friends who are and have been supported by these residential homes, of the high quality of care that is provided.”
Ald Ritchie said that back in April, the Health Minister also announced that he was carrying out his own review of the non-admissions policy.
“Where is that review now? Who exactly will make the final decision – the Minister or his unelected officials? Whatever the case, it is clear that this lack of leadership from the Minister is having a demoralising impact on staff and residents, whilst also having a financially disastrous impact on the viability of these homes,” Ald. Ritchie said.
He added: “The Minister needs to come forward now, not next week or next month, and intervene. The Minister needs to take some control of the situation and he needs to instruct the Board and Trusts to lift their unfair and unjustified ban on permanent admissions immediately. Failure to do so will be unforgiveable.”