A CAMPAIGNER at the heart of a bid to protect residents at a South Tyneside dementia centre says he has received an assurance it will not close until a new £9m health unit is ready to open its doors.
The creation of a specialist dementia hub in early 2016, which will be based at South Tyneside District Hospital, in Harton, Lane, South Shields, will see the closure of Connolly House, in Reynolds Avenue, Whiteleas, along with Perth Green House, in Jarrow.
The Friends of Connolly House (Foch) was established to ensure residents are kept up-to-date over what the future holds for them.
A representative of the group, John Finnon, had a lengthy meeting with Louise Carverhill, the council’s new acting head of Adult Social Care, and emerged from it with a number of assurances to allay fears that the group was being “kept in the dark”.
In particular, he was buoyed by a pledge that “barring a very serious unforeseeable change” Connolly House would not close before the new hub opens.
In response, a council spokesman pledged to keep residents and families fully informed of developments.
However, the spokesman didn’t go as far as confirming Mr Finnon’s assertion that Connolly House was safe until 2016, merely saying care would be provided at the “most appropriate place”.
Mr Finnon said: “I was impressed with Louise’s obvious sincerity in wanting to act in the best interests of Connolly House patients.
“She is very aware of the needs of dementia sufferers and gave me an assurance that all patients, barring a very serious and unforeseeable change in the council’s circumstances, will remain in Connolly House until the new facility is able to accommodate them.
“This refutes the rumours that the council were intending to close Connolly House before the new care hub opens.”
Mr Finnon said he had also received assurances that fully qualified and experienced staff would be employed at the new facility, and that staff at Connolly House would be able to apply for posts at the new district hospital site.
He added: “It did concern us that in these difficult times the council would try to save money by employing unqualified, inadequately trained staff.
“We have agreed that the council and management will have regular meetings with Foch in order to discuss activities on offer in the new facility, in order to build upon the excellent existing ones in Connolly House.
“It seems Connolly House staff will be able to apply for the new posts attached to the hospital, but cannot be automatically transferred over.
“Foch will be trying to ensure that as many Connolly House staff as possible will get jobs in the new facility.”
A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said: “We are pleased that the meeting with the Friends of Connolly House has been well received.
“It is a priority for us that residents and their families are well informed about the move to the new Integrated Care Services Hub, which will provide state-of-the-art care for older people, particularly those with dementia.
“The new hub is due to open next year.
“Until that becomes available, care will continue to be provided at the most appropriate place, depending on individual choice and needs.”