It was a sad day for Lagan Valley Hospital when the Trust announced proposals to further reduce opening hours at the emergency department after 8pm and at weekends, according to a local union.
As the Star went to press, the South Eastern Trust were set to confirm that the Lisburn hospital’s A&E hours would be reduced, with a weekend closure due to start on Saturday January 4.
They have said that whilst this is a temporary measure, there is no resolution to the staffing issues at the hospital.
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he was “deeply concerned” by the Trust’s decision.
“I think they have absolutely failed to address this issue over a considerable period of time and frankly this is unacceptable.
“The responsibility is theirs and no-one elses to put in place the necessary staff to ensure the A&E can remain open on a full time basis and that is what we will be aiming to achieve,” he added.
Trade Union Unison said it is “bitterly disappointed but not surprised” by the Trust’s announcement.
A union spokesperson said: “Unison believes that the South Eastern Trust could have done more to encourage consultants and senior doctors to rotate through all of their hospital sites.
“Some two years have passed since the overnight cover was removed from the Lagan Valley Hospital emergency department.
“The curtailment of services on that occasion was meant to have been temporary, but was similarly blamed on the shortage of medical staff.
“Unison are outraged that whilst the trust must have been monitoring this situation closely, it has again been allowed to reach such a stage of crisis.”
He said that the closure of the emergency departments will “have a direct effect on patient care”.
He continued: “The majority of these emergency cases will have to present themselves to the emergency departments in the Royal Victoria, Ulster or Craigavon hospitals.
“These three departments are regularly working far beyond capacity, and not meeting their targets.
“Last winter, we had an occasion when the local ambulance service almost ground to a halt because there was no room in emergency departments to admit patients. The ambulances were queued around like a taxi rank, waiting to off load patients.
“We have heard no announcement from the department of health, as to how they plan to meet this increased demand; with regards either to the expected increased waiting times or increased ambulance traffic.
“If the South Eastern Trust is out of options for a more radical solution, we call on minister Poots to find the workable solutions and any necessary resources to avert this impending disaster.
“The residents of Lisburn deserve access to medical services in an emergency, within safe time frames,” he concluded.