Northern Ireland

Edwin Poots 'didn't take job to make old people cry'

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Media captionEdwin Poots appeared before the health committee at Stormont

The health minister has said he did not take the job "to make old people cry or kill babies".

Edwin Poots was addressing the health committee, which called a special meeting to address the handling of the closure of residential care homes.

Over the last two weeks, three health trusts announced consultations that could see the potential closure of all their residential care homes.

Some elderly people felt they had not been properly consulted.

On Thursday, the minister and the chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board, John Compton, apologised for their mishandling of the issue which they said had only caused people unnecessary misery.

"The distress caused to elderly people was something which I found wholly unacceptable and we have to look at how we did things and how we ensure that doesn't happen again," Mr Poots said.

"The concept of what we want to try to do remains the right concept.

Distressed

"We want to provide better care for our elderly population, we want to ensure they have the greatest amount of independence while having robust support that ensures they remain safe and as well as they possibly can.

"If these buildings (care homes) are not fit for purpose, if the conditions that people are spending their latter years in are unacceptable - and they are - we do intend to close those facilities.

"However, we never did intend to do so causing stress to the individuals that are in those facilities."

Mr Compton also said it was never his intention that older people should be distressed or upset.

He said the future of residential care in Northern Ireland would be looked after at regional level and not among the health trusts.

The chair of the health committee, Sinn Fein's Sue Ramsey, warned Mr Poots that he had a lot of work to do.

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