UNISON has welcomed news that local companies are to buy two of the seven care homes owned by Four Seasons in Northern Ireland, which the company is threatening to close.
Reacting to the news, UNISON Northern Ireland regional secretary Patricia McKeown said: “The announcement that two of the Four Seasons Homes have now been bought by local companies comes as a source of relief to the residents and the affected staff.
“However, it does demonstrate that Four Seasons is currently selling off the complex care or nursing home part of its business in Northern Ireland.
“UNISON is currently in negotiations with the company, the five health and social services srusts and the Health and Social Care Board.
“We will also shortly enter into talks with the new purchasers of two of the 7sevenhomes to protect the rights of the transferring workforce and we are seeking similar protections from the NHS for the transferring residents.
“The residents and workers in the remaining five homes anxiously await decisions on their future.
“At a meeting with the Health and Social Care Board this afternoon (Friday 4 December), UNISON emphasised that such decisions could not be left to the market alone and that the NHS has a responsibility to put clear contingency plans in place which must include:
“protection for the full care package needed for individual residents;
“a rebalancing of in-house provision, given that the majority of this care in Northern Ireland is now in the hands of the market and in many cases subject to decisions beyond our shores which have little or nothing to do with the cost of care;
“reconsidering the future of the NHS care homes earmarked for closure and most especially reopening the doors of all – if this requires a change of use in some cases from residential to nursing care then it should be considered as a legitimate option;
“a new open and transparent process for engaging with all stakeholders including trade unions and the social care workforce in both the NHS and private sector.
“In our negotiations, UNISON seeks to persuade the health care system to recognise that crisis management does not serve our needs.
“We do not know whether the eight homes closed to date are the beginning or the end of the company’s business strategy.
“What we do know is that the closure crisis we have seen in the past will happen again.
“Our hope is that we have now convinced the NHS to exercise responsibility beyond crisis management and to work with us to plan for the future.”