THE beloved Firs Care Home in Ballygawley is now officially set for closure, despite an out pour of support from families, politicians and campaigners in an attempt to keep the home open.
Owner Pauline Gormley, who is set to retire on June 21, had been given a deadline of May 27 for a prospective buyer to come forward.
With that date now having passed, the Southern Trust are now set to close the home and begin the process of relocating the residents, some of whom have lived in the care home for some 27 years.
Last week Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Colm Gildernew met with the Trust to voice his concerns over the potential closure. However, these talks did not go as well as the Sinn Féin MLA had hoped.
Mr Gildernew told the Courier: "I am extremely disappointed at the level of engagement with families and commitment from the SHSCT to ensure the Firs can remain open to those who rely on its services.
"The Trust has a duty of care to ensure residents’ wishes, social care needs and rights to engage in family and community life are considered and upheld.
"There is also a need to protect and maintain day care and respite services in the Clogher Valley area.
"I have written to the Minister for Health, Robin Swann and the head of the Southern Trust to ask them to urgently intervene to ensure a resolution is found."
The Parents and Friends Committee, who are responsible for the campaign to keep the care home open, have not yet given up the fight. They have approached the Southern Trust to come and meet with the families to hear why they feel the home should be saved. They say the Trust refused this request.
Ethne McCord, a member of the committee, said: “We would like the Trust to demonstrate what steps they have taken to assist any prospective purchasers to enable The Firs to remain open.”
In response to this, a spokesperson for the Southern Trust said: "Our absolute priority is to continue to fully support the five individual residents and their families throughout this challenging process of relocating to alternative locations.
"Trust staff remain in very regular contact with residents and families about the next steps and options in this process. These decisions will be made on an individual basis taking into consideration the wishes of residents and their families.
"Senior Trust managers continue to engage directly with all families, elected representatives and other representatives on this matter.
"We urge any resident/family with concerns to raise these directly with the member of Trust staff they have been liaising with.”
Speaking on the impending closure, Cllr Donal O Cofaigh has warned that the Southern Trust should take lessons from the recent closure of The Valley care home in Clogher.
Cllr O Cofaigh said: “Cross Community Labour is calling on the Chief Executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust to meet with the patients, families and their representatives to help alleviate the care home community's fears over any adverse impact the closure of the Firs care home may have on the care and protection of the patients and the peace of mind of relatives.
“Cross Community Labour would like to draw to the attention of the SHSCT the adverse impact the closure of a neighbouring care home, The Valley Nursing Home Clogher, had on the patients and families.
“Cross Community Labour are keen to know if the SHSCT carried out a 'Lessons Learnt Review' into the Valley Home closure and are calling on the Trust Chief Executive to meet with Firs care home representatives to disclose the findings of any such review with the purpose of mitigating any similar adverse outcomes should the Firs care home move to closure.
“It is important that senior SHSCT officers undertake oversight of this serious matter to ensure that there is no misunderstanding regarding the Trusts intentions and no misrepresentation of the desire of all at the Firs care home to keep the care home open.
“It is an accepted fact that the closure of any care home has the potential to cause grave harm to patients and families.
“For that reason, Cross Community Labour Alternative are calling on the Chief Executive of the SHSCT to take every measure to ensure the Firs care home Ballygawley remains open.”
The future for the residents who call the Firs their home, as well as their families, remains uncertain.