Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA and Chairman of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee, has challenged the DUP Health Minister to “provide precise details regarding what exactly the ‘temporary’ closure of Intermediate Care beds in Ballycastle’s Dalriada Hospital (20 beds) from the 30 November 2014 will mean”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also UUP Chief Whip and North Antrim UUP Chairman, said: “The Minister and the Northern Trust need to be clear if this is closure by stealth.
“They should say so, rather than use the word ‘temporary’ to allow a degree of uncertainty, which allows their decision to be all things to all people.
“I am extremely concerned by the decision that ‘The Multiple Sclerosis Respite Centre will also temporarily close from 30 November 2014 with services being provided in independent nursing homes or via home based respite or direct payments which allow service users to make their own respite arrangements.’
Mr Swann added: “I am informed that patients and users only found out about this decision via news broadcasts, and it seems the Minister and the Trust have failed to learn from the mistakes when they launched their attack on care homes.
“The respite service has been a priceless support for a large number of families in the area, and for many the home-based option or direct payment, does not allow the break which many carers need, but are often reluctant to take.
“This approach will see carers put under more pressure, and leave them reliant on the availability and dependability of independent care homes.
“It has been put to me by a user of this service, that the Northern Trust has just privatised MS respite care in North Antrim,” said Assemblyman Swann.