Below is an extract from Jim Allister’s speech during the budget debate yesterday:
“Writ large through the Budget is the funding of what is grandly called Transforming Your Care. Maybe it would be more aptly called “Transferring Your Care”. That seems to be the ethos of much of it. I think, in particular, of the care home saga that emerged in recent weeks and months. It is quite clear that the purpose of this Minister of Health and the Department under his guidance is to disengage the health service from care home provision. I think that that is wrong.
“If we value the health service, and I hope that we all do, I believe that a portion of care home provision needs to be retained in that service. Otherwise, we invite the near calamity that occurred in GB when Southern Cross collapsed and 750 homes were under immediate threat and there was all sorts of scurrying around to find a solution to keep the roof over the heads of those who lived in those homes. To go down an exclusively privatised route for care homes is a retrograde step. Yes, there is a place for private care for those who wish to avail themselves of it. However, for the private sector to monopolise care homes is wrong. It will drive up prices and drive down standards, and the health service must retain care home provision.
“I note, again from some answers received, that it has quite clearly been a stratagem to squeeze those homes out. That is why one such home — Pinewood in Ballymena — has not had a single admission of a full-time resident in five years. Yes, it takes people in for respite and intermediate care, and, as an aside, should state care homes close, I see no provision for where the respite and intermediate beds will be provided. State homes are being run down to the point at which there is a handful of people in them, and Ministers will then step forward and say, “What can we do about it? They are not viable. They have to close.” It is a stratagem of closure; closure by stealth is what we are seeing.
“Not so long ago, when the previous Health Minister was apparently going down that road, there was uproar from the Benches of the Minister who is now going down the same road. There were public meetings — including one in Larne in the Finance Minister’s constituency — where people gathered to protest the threat to a particular care home there. There was another such public meeting just recently because of the same threat, this time from the Health Minister. Not a single DUP representative came to express any concern at that meeting, because the policy has now been somersaulted on. What was a good stick with which to beat Mr McGimpsey is now a crutch to get them to the same point.”