Fury as multiple sclerosis respite unit is temporarily closed

SAVE IT. Moyle Chairman, Cllr Donal Cunningham, MLA Daithi McKay, Cllr Seamus Blaney and supporters at the protest at Dalriada Hospital on Friday.INBM45-14 043SC.
SAVE IT. Moyle Chairman, Cllr Donal Cunningham, MLA Daithi McKay, Cllr Seamus Blaney and supporters at the protest at Dalriada Hospital on Friday.INBM45-14 043SC.

The MS Society has expressed serious concern following the announcement on Thursday that the Regional MS respite unit in Dalriada Hospital is to close ‘temporarily’ until March 2015.

The Regional Multiple Sclerosis Respite Centre in Ballycastle currently provides respite care for people affected by MS from throughout Northern Ireland. Multiple sclerosis is a neurological condition which affects around 4300 people in Northern Ireland – one of the highest rates in the world.

SUPPORT. Protesters outside Dalriada Hospital on Friday evening.INBM45-14 044SC.

SUPPORT. Protesters outside Dalriada Hospital on Friday evening.INBM45-14 044SC.

Reacting to the announcement that Northern Ireland’s only dedicated MS respite unit is temporarily closing, Patricia Gordon, Director of the MS Society said: “The MS Society is deeply concerned that this decision will have a devastating impact on people affected by MS.

“There are more than 4000 people living with MS in Northern Ireland – one of the highest rates in the world – and yet MS services have been dramatically reduced in recent months causing serious distress for local families.

“Regular, appropriate breaks are crucial for maintaining the wellbeing of carers and people with MS. Inadequate respite provision can lead to declining health, increasing pressure on carers and unnecessary and costly hospital admissions.

“Rumours have been circulating for years about the future of the MS Regional Respite Unit in Dalriada Hospital, Ballycastle and this announcement is a devastating blow for people who rely on this service.

“The MS Society has recently been engaged in a review of MS respite services with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. We did so in good faith and with a reassurance from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust that they were committed to maintaining multiple sclerosis respite services.

“We are very disappointed, that at this very early stage, the Northern Health and Social Care Trust has taken the radical decision to temporarily close the Regional MS respite unit in Ballycastle, without consulting local service users and carers who will be impacted most.

“We are also very worried that the Northern Health and Social Care Trust has failed to provide information about what alternatives are available to those requiring respite.

“It is now essential that the Northern Trust fulfil their commitment to provide a needs assessment for all service users and carers affected and provide adequate alternative arrangements to meet their needs.

“In the longer I would urge the Northern Trust to complete their review of MS respite services, to engage openly with local people living with MS, and ensure that they provide facilities to meet the growing demand for MS respite.

“The MS Society will continue to provide respite opportunities for people affected by MS via our Short Breaks and Activities Fund. We would also encourage anyone affected by the temporary closure of Dalriada to contact their local MS Society branch for information and support.”

Expressing her shock and dismay at the news, Pat Crossley, Hon Secretary/Support Officer of the MS Society Ballymoney and District Branch added: “I am passionate about continued respite for MS sufferers and their families, and whilst Dalriada is not the choice for everyone, but for those sufferers that do avail of it,it is a lifeline. I know the human stories and the people whose lives will be deeply affected by the closure of Dalriada - it’s not only the sufferers but their carers.

“I have been in this role for 30 years, and whilst not having MS myself, I am deeply involved in the lives of many people who suffer from the disease in this area. I was devastated, disappointed and concerned when I heard the news on Thursday. I am a local representative of the MS Society and will continue to speak out on behalf of MS sufferers, and I promise to fight for them all, in whatever way I can.”