A public protest is being planned outside the closure-threatened Hamilton Court Care Home in Armagh.
Confirmation of the protest comes just a day after the first of 31 residents at the home – which employs 54 people – moved out.
Organisers are hoping for a huge public support.
It will take place outside the walls of Hamilton Court Care Home, one of seven Four Seasons homes identified closure last week, this coming Friday, December 4, at 5pm.
After details of the pending closures were revealed, campaigners locally took to Facebook and set up a page in opposition which has gathered almost 1,300 supporters to date.
It can be accessed at https://www.facebook.com/Save-Hamilton-Court-Nursing-Home-Armagh-1490415187932325/?fref=photo
Meanwhile, campaigners confirm the first resident moved out yesterday (Tuesday).
The revelation, via social media, reports: “A sad day for us all. Bad news for Armagh. I would encourage people not to be scaremongered into moving their loved one. At least wait until after Christmas.
“And let the staff enjoy their residents and say a fitting goodbye.
“If the home is empty then staff will reduce and it’s a vicious cycle from then on. Let it be a Happy Christmas for everyone please.”
A bid to set up a petition to the UK Government was rejected as health is devolved and the responsibility rests with local Ministers.
For that reason, the closures’ threat came before the floor of the Assembly this week.
Local Sinn Fein MLA Cathal Boylan asked Health Minister Simon Hamilton for assurances that patients would be relocated, with proper care facilities, and that the jobs of staff would be retained.
Mr Boylan told the House: “After all, Armagh has been renowned for the great skill sets in healthcare that have been provided down through the years, and it has seen nothing but closure and the relocation of jobs over the last number of years. I would like the Minister to give an assurance to those people and patients that he will care for them and cover the Hamilton care home.”
Health Minister Simon Hamilton said he was unable to give assurances on jobs “because they are not my jobs to save or rescue in the way that he is asking me to do”.
The Minister said: “These are people who are employed by Four Seasons. I look to Four Seasons to act as a compassionate employer in such circumstances and to do its best to relocate the staff to jobs elsewhere in the group.
“I think that it has made some indications that that is the intention. Staff are, primarily, the responsibility of the employer, but I think that we all would want to see them treated with dignity and respect.”
Mr Hamilton said he also wanted to see residents treated with dignity and respect and “moved, with minimal disruption, to appropriate accommodation close to where they currently live”.
He added: “I know that that will be challenging, but that is certainly the aim, and it is certainly what I will be ensuring that officials from my Department, and others within health and social care, ensure happens.”
Local Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy pressed the Minister on what discussions had taken place with the local health trust, the Southern Trust, and those in charge of Hamilton Court Care Home.
He wanted reassurances on “priority being given to ensure the safe relocation of residents to other centres of care in the Armagh area, with full consultation with relatives, and that the Hamilton Court staff who are affected will be provided with realistic job opportunities either by Four Seasons or other healthcare providers in the Armagh area”.
Mr Hamilton responded: “We will be looking primarily to Four Seasons to provide other employment opportunities for its staff. That may well be…elsewhere within that organisation or indeed there may be a possibility, given the staff shortages that there are in different homes in different parts of Northern Ireland, for people to move into other jobs with other providers.”
He said he could not give a categorical list of what communications the Southern Trust has had but promised to write to Mr Kennedy with details.
Minister Hamilton said the Southern Trust, like the other trusts, was involved in a joint working group he had outlined, so there would be involvement by the Southern Trust.
He said: “Again, we are looking to the trust to work closely with the board, the regulator, the Department and indeed Four Seasons to minimise the disruption that will inevitably take place.”
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