Muckamore Abbey Hospital: June closure plan dropped with no new date set

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This month’s target closure date for Muckamore Abbey Hospital will not be met, the Deparment of Health has confirmed.

However, a new deadline has not been set for the Co Antrim health facility to shut as this would “not be helpful to patients or families”.

In a statement issued on Wednesday the Department explained the target closure date set last year was dependent on all the remaining patients successfully transitioning to agreed alternative accommodation placements in the community.

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Health Minister Mike Nesbitt said: “Much work has been done to find suitable community placements for the remaining in-patients since the announcement of closure. This work is overseen by the Regional Resettlement Oversight Board, chaired by Dr Patricia Donnelly, and I am grateful to Dr Donnelly and the Oversight Board members for their work.

Muckamore Abbey Hospital. Photo by GoogleMuckamore Abbey Hospital. Photo by Google
Muckamore Abbey Hospital. Photo by Google

"However, it is now clear that not all the remaining patients will be successfully resettled in advance of the proposed closure date in June. This is why I am signalling today an extension to the proposed June closure date.

“I am very aware that as we get closer to the anticipated closure date of June 2024, the lack of clarity about the immediate future of the hospital is heightening levels of anxiety among the remaining patients and their families about the future arrangements for their care; this uncertainty is also impacting on hospital staff.

“The resettlement process, particularly for those patients who have spent a considerable part of their lives in Muckamore, can be complex and any attempt to rush this work risks the breakdown of individual community placements, and I know such breakdowns can be a difficult and traumatic experience for patients and their families.”

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The minister added: “Planning will continue at pace in relation to establishing resettlement timelines for the remaining patients, and the work being progressed by the Belfast Trust to close the hospital will continue.

"However, setting a further target date at this point for the hospital’s closure is not helpful to patients or families. Nonetheless, the direction of travel remains closure and this will happen when all those at Muckamore have been resettled.

Work to transform adult learning disability services will also continue. The Department is working with all Trusts to develop suitable alternative service provision to ensure that specialist Learning Disability Assessment and Treatment beds, as well as enhanced community preventative services, are available to meet the needs of the learning disabled population. In addition, work to develop a draft Learning Disability Service Model is at an advanced stage.”

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The department’s statement noted the planned closure of the hospital will have no bearing on the criminal investigation in relation to the hospital or the work of the Muckamore Abbey Hospital Inquiry. These will both continue according to their planned schedules.

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