Hospital unit fate seems sealed: MLA

Roy Beggs
Roy Beggs
  • Temporary closure to extend as far as 2016
  • Department of Health now set to consider closing unit totally
  • MLA accuses health bosses of sham attempt to consult on its future

The future of a Co Antrim hospital unit now appears to be a “foregone conclusion” according to one MLA, after the Department of Health announced it is considering turning the existing closure into a permanent one.

It had initially been announced in October last year that Whiteabbey Hospital’s minor injuries unit would shut down from December 1, with staff instead being redeployed to Antrim Area Hospital.

‘The savings plan also indicates that the Trust will consult on a permanent closure of the minor injuries unit’

This was dubbed a “temporary closure” by the Northern Health Trust.

The UUP’s Roy Beggs MLA, currently contesting the East Antrim seat in the Westminster elections, had asked the Department of Health earlier this month what its plans were for the unit.

The department has responded that the closure will continue into 2015/16, and that a “savings plan also indicates that the Trust will consult on a permanent closure of the minor injuries unit”.

Mr Beggs issued a statement which read: “The outcome of any consultation on the permanent closure of the unit seems to be a foregone conclusion. It’s clear the minister and the Northern Health Trust have already made their decision so they shouldn’t even waste people’s time on even pretending to consult.

“Both the former minister and the Trust have acted shamefully throughout this entire affair.”

“The decision shows no consideration of the pressures on local A&E services and the inability to meet the four-hour waiting targets.

“This week it was revealed that only 57 per cent of people attending the A&E in Antrim Area Hospital in March were seen on time, even though the target is 95%. The situation in Mater Hospital was not much better at only 62 per cent.

“Rather than closing local alternatives to A&E, such as the minor injuries unit in Whiteabbey, we need additional options to avoid patients waiting excessive lengths of time. We must remember the longer the wait the greater the risk.”