Presbyterian Church: Concern over plans to close Londonderry and Portrush care homes

Holding hands Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Families and staff have expressed 'great concern' at the plans

Healthcare union Unison has called for an urgent meeting over plans to close two care homes in the north west.

The Presbyterian Church said that it intends to buy the former Four Seasons care home in Garvagh.

Plans are at an "advanced stage" and if they go ahead, would include the closure of Ard Cluan care home in Londonderry and York House in Portrush.

Nearly 40 residents and more than 60 staff would have to be relocated to Garvagh, almost 30 miles away.

The Presbyterian Church said the proposed new £1.5m residential home could open as early as 2017.

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Image caption The Portrush care home currently has 26 residents

The council for social witness oversees the running of the Presbyterian Church's six residential care homes in Northern Ireland.

Group secretary Lindsay Conway said in a statement on Wednesday the move was down to changing legislation, increasing standards and what he called the "rising expectations of residents and families".

"The envisaged relocation to the new site, which is only 20 years old, would increase our ability to provide much needed residential care for older people in the north west region, including services for those with dementia.

"There is huge potential in Garvagh to create a wonderful, modern and welcoming home with a Christian ethos that will be fit for purpose for many years to come,"

Image caption Iris May said she "loves" her home

Mr Conway told BBC Radio Foyle on Thursday that a final decision had not been taken.

"It's not a done deal because we haven't purchased the building yet, that hasn't been finalised," he said.

"All the ducks are in the right order but we will continue to negotiate and if there are other viable alternatives we will listen and we will engage."

'Great concerns'

Iris May Boyd who lives at Ard Cluan in Derry said she would be very disappointed if it closed.

"I just love it to bits here, it's a great place," said Ms Boyd "I'm not here very long, nearly a year and I love it and Its central for everybody.

"I haven't got any family, I've a brother in Scotland but he comes over whenever he can.

"Even when he doesn't come over there's people who come in and we have quizzes which is great and then we get taken out," she said.

Iris May celebrates her 87th birthday on Friday and hopes that she will still be there next year.

"The staff's all lovely. I'd be very disappointed if we had to leave and go away so far.

"I didn't realise what they were talking about, they were crying.

"I asked what are they crying for? but I realise now. A lot of people and relatives wouldn't be able to come," said Ms Boyd.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The Portrush care home currently has 26 residents

Brian Ferguson from the Unison union said they first became aware of the plans when contacted by the BBC on Wednesday.

"It came as a shock to ourselves.... we have great concerns in relation to the closure of those two homes and whether the staff can relocate to Garvagh care home.

"It's a considerable distance and is going to cause a considerable cost to our members in travel," he said.

"We'll be calling for an urgent meeting with the church in relation to discussing their plans for the residents and the members we represent."

Rev David Latimer has been the chair of Ard Cluan House committee for more than 25 years.

He said families of the residents were devastated by the news that the relocation is going to be in Garvagh, across country 30 miles".

"It's not a huge distance, but for Northern Ireland people it may as well be at the other end of the world," he said.

"Will the residents go, are the relatives happy? I don't have answers to that but I'm not hopeful."