News that Loane House in Dungannon is to close has been met with disappointment and concern by local elected representatives and members of the public alike.
Despite receiving a petition with more than 8,000 signatures against the proposal, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust has confirmed that the unit - which cares for elderly and vulnerable patients - is to shut within the next three years.
A Trust spokesperson said no clearer indication of a timeframe for closure could be given at this stage.
Under the plan, the Trust will develop a new non-acute inpatient service at Craigavon Hospital, replacing those at Loane House, South Tyrone and Lurgan Hospital.
A single specialist stroke inpatient unit will also be developed at Craigavon.
Sinn Fein MLA for the area, Bronwyn McGahan, has demanded a meeting with Health Minister following the announcement from the Southern Trust, and called for a rural impact assessment to be carried out before any changes take place.
Speaking yesterday, Ms McGahan said: “Loane House is the only facility in the South Tyrone area that provided beds for elderly patients and moving it out of the constituency will only add to the hardship suffered by the patients and their families.
“At a meeting today I listened to solely medical reasons as to why the ward would be closed yet no one looked at the other mitigating factors.
“People living in rural areas are being stripped of services on a now daily basis as British Tory cuts demand its pound of flesh.”
For more political reaction and details on the Trust announcement, see Tuesday’s TYRONE TIMES.