This week, Lisburn City Council’s Cross Party Working Group met Edwin Poots MLA, Minister for Health, in relation to the current reduced opening hours at Lagan Valley Hospital.
The Council had sought the meeting as part of its ongoing Campaign to restore 24 hours / 7 day per week access to the Lagan Valley Hospital and to ensure that the Minister was aware of the needs of the Local residents.
The Council had a productive meeting with the Minister who confirmed that it was his very strong desire to restore the 24/7 access to LVH and outlined the South Eastern Trust plans for relocation of GP out of Hours and also the appointment of Emergency Nurse Specialists and Advanced Emergency Nurse Specialists.
Speaking after the meeting the Health Minister said: “Shortly before Christmas, the South Eastern Trust advised me that in response to critical staffing issues facing the Emergency Departments at Downe and Lagan Valley hospitals, there would be a reduction in opening hours, with effect from January 4, 2014. This was an operational decision for the Trust.
“I am deeply disappointed that these measures have had to be taken. I recognise though the difficulties the Trust faced in recruiting doctors, and asked the Health and Social Care Board and the South Eastern Trust to make fresh efforts to secure appropriate medical staffing for both the Lagan Valley and Downe Emergency Departments.
“All Trusts continue to seek to recruit middle grade doctors but this has met with limited success. This problem of a shortage of middle grade doctors in emergency departments and difficulties in recruitment is not just a Northern Ireland problem but applies across the UK. Every effort is being made by the HSC to resolve this difficult issue.
“I will be keeping this situation under close review and I expect the Trust to do all it can to deliver and develop sustainable services now and for the future,” he added.
Lisburn Mayor, Councillor Margaret Tolerton thanked the Minister for meeting with the Cross Party Group to discuss the Council’s concerns.
“The Council appreciated the meeting with the Minister and the opportunity for the Council to re-iterate its position regarding the future of the Lagan Valley Hospital,” she said. “It is encouraging that the Health Minister shares our commitment to a return to 24/7 access at the hospital.”
The Council Cross Party working group will, within the next week, meet with senior South Eastern Trust officials to discuss of implementation plans and will be very keen to see a timetable in place to restore 24/7 access.
The Group will then meet with GP representatives, who will also play a critical role in any new structure.
Chairman of the Council’s Corporate Services Committee, Councillor Pat Catney, said that the Cross Party Group would now be seeking assurances from the Trust that the services at the Lagan Valley would be restored.
“I welcome the Minister’s reassurance about the Lagan Valley and we now look to the Trust to demonstrate their progress in returning services to the hospital,” he said. “It is important that we meet with our local GPs, who will be key to the development of the hospital, to ensure the best possible way forward.
“We will be meeting with all health care officials and practitioners involved to make sure this happens as quickly as possible,” concluded Mr Catney.