N. Ireland Politics

Slievemore unit 'hope' after Poots talks

Edwin Poots

Families of residents of Slievemore nursing unit in Londonderry say they feel a 'great sense of hope' following talks with Health Minister Edwin Poots.

Mr Poots met relatives to discuss their concerns and stated that the 31 May closure date was no longer viable.

The Western Trust has said the unit is not suitable for long-term care, but relatives say it should stay open.

The closure was ordered by the RQIA (Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority).

In a statement the minister said it was clear the closure of the unit would "require more time to allow it to take place".

"It is inevitable the facility will have to remain open beyond the 31 May deadline," he said.

"I must make it clear that the safety and quality of care for residents is a priority for me."

Mr Poots said he had a very "open and honest discussion" with the families.

Jane Dunton's husband, Tony, is a patient at the Slievemore unit.

"Even though it's only a stay of execution, it takes enormous pressure from us and from the staff of Slievemore and probably in some cases from the patients as well," she said.

"I would pay any money that was required to keep him there, but so far that hasn't been demanded of me."

Mrs Dunton said the minister promised he would have conversations with the trust and with RQIA.

"He even went so far as to say they might do costings, which the trust had steadfastly refused to do," she said.

The costings would estimate how much money it would take to bring the building up to the standard required by RQIA.

Foyle SDLP MP Mark Durkan, who was at the meeting, joined with the families in calling for Mr Poots to reconsider closing the home.

He said the families had made it "very clear that they never had any issue with the quality or standard of care".

"They also made it clear that they were very suspicious about the circumstances of the way this business was coming up where they were being told by the trust that the trust didn't want to do it, hadn't planned to do it or anything else, but were doing it purely by diktat from RQIA under threat of prosecution," he said.

The MP described the situation as an "excessive implementation of regulatory standards".

"We were told by the trust in the past that RQIA had initially said part of the problem was that they didn't know Slievemore nursing unit existed," he said.

"Then they didn't know the model of care because the trust referred to Slievemore nursing unit as a ward in the community, they hadn't heard of a ward in the community, they didn't know what it was.

"We were making the point to the minister yesterday that maybe the very good concept of a ward in the community is one of the things that should now be built in to Transforming Your Care as part of the menu of options available to people."

The trust told Mr Durkan that when it suggested changes to meet the RQIA's requirements, the authority responded by telling the trust "it's not your job to run somewhere like that".

"It shouldn't be down to RQIA to say what trusts can or cannot own or can or cannot directly provide," Mr Durkan said.

"That's why we were saying to the minister that surely RQIA has gone into some misdirection here, there needs to be some restraint.

"So we do have to wait now and see what emerges from the conversation he and the department have with the trust and with RQIA."

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