‘Betrayal’ Over Larne Residential Home

EAST Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has accused health chiefs of “absolute betrayal” after the Northern Health and Social Care Trust announced it intends to close Larne’s Lisgarel residential home.

And GP and councillor Brian Dunn branded the process “one of the most dishonest consultations I have seen”.

As we report inside politicians, clergy and the public have mobilised to save the town’s only Health Service residential home from the axe.

Mr Wilson and his fellow DUP East Antrim MLA Alastair Ross attended a meeting with clerics at the home on Tuesday morning. The MP emerged fuming, “I feel totally betrayed by what is now being proposed”.

The Environment Minister claimed the trust had reneged on the agreement that saw Inver House salvaged from an earlier round of cost-cutting – an allegation the trust denies.

Mr Wilson said, “We were sold the idea of a reduced number of beds at Inver House, on the understanding that patients still requiring rehabilitation – but not in the formal setting of a hospital ward and who were not yet ready to go back to their own homes – would move to Lisgarel where they could still receive some rehabilitation and regain some of their independence.”

The Inver House campaign had been hard-fought and there had been some public criticism that the joint political-clerical lobby had compromised on the number of beds in the palliative and rehabilitation unit for older people.

Recalling the recriminations aimed at Northern Health Board chiefs at a stormy public meeting in 2005, Mr Wilson said, “We probably saved their bacon.” He added, “We sat across the table from them, crossing the ‘t’s and dotting the ‘i’s and six months after the promise was made we have this bombshell landed on us.”

The MP said, “We thought we had got the best deal for Larne and within six months they have torn away at least one part of it. It makes you wonder, can you deal with the trust or are all these things qualified, that they can change them within weeks of being agreed?

“How on earth can you deal with a body that feels it can break arrangements so easily?”

Mr Wilson added, “I can understand now the attitude of people in Larne about the trust when they don’t believe a word that is said. Trust is the wrong word to attribute to an organisation if this is how they honour their arrangements.”

Mr Wilson accused decision-makers at County Hall of being “selective” in a report produced in support of the proposal to close Lisgarel and four other NHS residential homes.

“The report doesn’t recognise that the home is beside the (Gloucester Park) day centre; makes no mention of the bungalows where residents enjoy assisted independent living; or the fact that it is beside Inver House, so that there is a flow of services all available on the one site,” he said.

A Northern Trust spokesman said in response to Mr Wilson’s comments, “The agreement regarding Inver House was to retain an 18-bed inpatient, rehabilitation unit with eight step-up/step-down – intermediate care – beds at Lisgarel.

These are currently being used and will continue to exist in any re-provision of Lisgarel following the consultation period.”