A campaign group say they are determined to fight tooth and nail to save South Tyrone’s Loane House after health chiefs formally announced proposals to close the elderly care unit and the adjoining stroke rehabilitation centre.
Over 6000 people have signed a petition organised by Sinn Fein MLA Bronwyn McGahan to prevent the proposed closure of the vital facilities.
The local representative claimed that not only will the move adversely affect the lives of the 444 elderly patients treated annually at the units, it will also jeopardise 100 jobs and hit local businesses.
Ms McGahan said she had launched the petition to give local people the chance to show their support for the unit’s vulnerable patients and staff.
It is feared that the elderly are bearing the brunt of the Southern Health Trust’s latest efficiency drive, with the future of local statutory residential homes also under threat.
The closures, if they go ahead after a consultation period, will result in patients being moved to Craigavon and Daisyhill hospitals, and a two-hour round trip for visiting relatives.
The trust claims that patients at Loane House do not have the same access to diagnostic and pharmacy services as patients at Craigavaon and Daisyhill, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the right level of medical cover at evenings and weekends at the South Tyrone Unit.
Ms McGahan said the closure would spell disaster for many vulnerable people in the community.
“I have been campaigning for the retention of Loane House as the only dedicated unit in the South Tyrone area that deals with elderly and confused patients.
“If this home is closed apart from the loss of a vital service to the people of South Tyrone we would also see it impinging on the local economy.
“The loss of jobs from Loane House as well as the loss of ancillary services to the unit will no doubt have an economic impact, and small businesses such as corner shops or cafes will lose out as families of the over 200 patients treated each year will no longer be visiting the area.
“I am determined that Loane House is maintained as a service to the local community where the elderly and confused can be treated locally.”