SDLP councillor has claimed that statistical data compiled by a leading UK based campaigner against the closure of community based care homes has found a direct link between a dramatic increase in mortality rates and the proposed closure of the place they regard as their home.
Councillor Connaire McGreevy said the findings of and English campaigning lawyer Yvonne Hossack, who founded the charity Elderly People in Crisis made terrifying reading.
“The fact that the Health Minister and his department have been forced because of the public outcry to shelve their appalling proposals still leaves residential care home clients in a state of uncertainty about their future.
“That cloud of fear over their lives can only be lifted by the Southern Area Trust making it absolutely clear that there will be no enforced evictions of the elderly and infirm from the place they view as their home of choice.
“The opposition by Yvonne Hossack to the closure of care homes is based on the stark reality of the huge rise in mortality rates that follow as a consequence of those forced to move or indeed live with that threat over them.
“In one study over a 12 month period following the forced closure of a care home in Northants in England she found that 15 out of 41 residents had died.
“This represented a death figure of 37 per cent, a figure way above what would have been expected in normal circumstances. Her choice of words to describe the enforced relocation of elderly people from the care home of their choice may be shocking to some.
“Even the very announcement that a home was under threat is enough to raise the mortality risk to an unacceptable level, according to her findings. That type of announcement has already been made in relation to homes in the Southern Area.
“Her chilling description of the policy of care home eviction as leading to mass slaughter has never been rejected by any of those that have lost loved ones in such circumstances,” Councillor McGreevy said.
The leader of the SDLP group on Newry and Mourne Council said he would be inviting Ms Hossack to make a trip to Northern Ireland as part of the fight to highlight what he described as “the hidden health agenda.”
“Her success in saving from closure more than 80 homes across the UK through a combination of judicial reviews, threatened litigation, consultation and persuasion has underlined that real and constructive communication can achieve results.
“Certainly there is no argument that can be put forward by the Southern Trust and the Department of Health to suggest that the process they wanted to steamroll through until the Minister intervened that can be justified,” Mr. McGreevy said.
The decision by Health Minister Edwin Poots to suspend the planned closure of statutory care Home across Northern Ireland must not be taken as a signal that the battle to protect vulnerable residents has been won Councillor McGreevy warned.
The SDLP representative said that the move by the Minister “was inevitable” in the face of what he described as a united voice of community anger.
“We now have a window of opportunity to press forward our argument on a collective front.
“As the community of Newry and Mourne we have to say that we won’t tolerate the elderly and frail in our society being faced with being dumped from their homes.
“The decision to axe the care home component from the health agenda in Northern Ireland is all about saving money. Patients are simply numbers in an experiment.
“The people who devised this inhuman policy must be devoid of feelings and compassion.
“The economic argument of cost savings being allegedly available if people are looked after in their own home is an obscenity.
“How many old people will have to do as a result of that dictatorial policy before the department is forced to say that enough is enough?” Mr. McGreevy asked.