North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has welcomed assurances from the Northern Trust that the Accident and Emergency 24 hour service will be retained at Causeway Hospital. Mr McKay was speaking after meeting with the Chief Executive of the Northern Trust in Ballymena and wants a further assurance from the Health Minister that the service will not be scaled back.
Mr McKay said
“There is a lot of concern amongst people in North Antrim at the moment that the A&E in Causeway may be scaled down significantly over the next year and that they will be forced to go to hospitals in Antrim and Altnagelvin at certain times. Such a situation would be disastrous; it would affect ambulance response times, deprive this rural area of a much-needed service and result in local people having to travel for over an hour to access an A&E. During our meeting the Trust has assured me that there are no plans to scale down A&E and are committed to retaining the service which I very much welcome. However I would also like an assurance from the Health Minister that he will support the retention of the service and I have tabled priority questions to him in the Assembly regarding the matter.
“We discussed with the Trust the details of the proposed transfer of services out of Braid Valley Hospital in Ballymena and still have a number of concerns about the consultation proposals which they released last week and the services located on the site. The approval of the £14million Health and Social Care Centre at the Braid Valley site has not yet been secured but I have to say that I am encouraged by the positive soundings I have heard in regard to this and given that the proposal itself will be revenue neutral it makes economic sense for this particular proposal to go ahead. We are in a severe financial climate however so its important that all local representatives continue to lobby the Minister in regard to this until it is signed off on.
“At this difficult time economically I think we need to be wary of the school of thought that exists that believes hospital services should be centralised into a very small number of sites and the influence it may have on departmental proposals. Such thinking, which may be effective in large urban areas in other countries, does not take into account the rurality of this area and the effect it will have on the rural community. Sinn Féin will oppose any efforts to run down vital life-saving services such as the A&E at Causeway and the Minister needs to be frank and honest with the public about what his department’s proposals are for Causeway hospital.”