There have been calls for clarity over the admissions policy of a Carrickfergus care home that was originally earmarked for closure.
Joymount House was one of 18 residential homes across Northern Ireland granted a reprieve last week from Health Minister Edwin Poots.
Plans were originally outlined in 2013 to close the homes as part of the Transforming Your Care Review.
However, public outcry on the decision led to a new round of public consultations, which concluded last month with almost 1000 written responses.
The latest development will allow current residents to remain on at the statutory care homes for ‘as long as they wish’, with a review of admission policies to be carried out.
In a letter to Health Committee chair Maeve McLaughlin last week, Mr Poots indicated that ‘every effort’ was made to engage with those affected by the closure plans during the consultation.
“The HSC Board went to significant lengths to engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including the Human Rights Commission, the Commissioner for Older People, Age NI, Patient and Client Council and Carers NI,” he said.
“While the physical condition of any of the statutory homes may be below that of newly built accommodation, and in many instances it would not be practicable to deploy the resources in order to bring them up to those standards, it is also clear that for many of the individuals living in these homes, the attachments and friendships that they have made over the years matter more to them and consequently they have no wish to move.
“Many also expressed the view that the quality of care was the most important issue for them and indicated a strong attachment to staff within the homes. I am clear that existing residents will be allowed to remain in their home for as long as they wish and so long as their needs can continue to be met there.”
Despite this, local representatives have called for more detail on the review of admissions policies.
“I welcome the Minister’s decision to rescue residential homes, in particular Joymount House,” Carrick Alderman Jim Brown said. “What we need now however is for him to reverse the decision by the Board not to take any more residents in to ensure that there is a future for these homes.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs Jr added: “This announcement that existing residents will not be evicted will come as great relief to residents, their families and the staff.
“The work of all the local support groups that have campaigned so hard for these homes should be acknowledged.”
“Whilst existing residents have been given a degree of protection by the Minister’s statement, the long term future of residential care homes will remain in doubt unless new residents are admitted.”