There was outrage in Lisburn this week as it came to light that the South Eastern Trust plans to close the Lagan Valley Hospital Accident and Emergency Department at the weekend.
There had been the expectation that the Trust was ready to move forward with plans to ensure 24 hour access at the local hospital with the building of a new out-of-hours GP centre. However, in a shock move, they have instead revealed that, due to difficulties in recruiting middle grade doctors, they need to reduce the hours even further.
The Health Minister and Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots said he had not been made aware of the situation until Tuesday. “Whilst there is an acceptance that there is a problem getting doctors, other Trusts haven’t ended up in this situation,” said Mr Poots.
The Health Minister said discussions about the situation would be ongoing. However, he added: “I am wholly unconvinced that the proposed response is in the interests of the public.”
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he was shocked to hear the news and had spoken to the Chief Executive of the Trust and the Health Minister about his concerns.
“I find it totally unacceptable that this situation has deteriorated to the point where a further restriction in opening hours is now being considered,” said Mr Donaldson.
“If this is part of some move to centralise emergency services then I will be vigorously opposing it. We want the best for our community and that means there should be an improvement to local hospital services, not a regression to a reduced service.
“I know that the Health Minister is very angry with this situation and high level meetings have been taking place this week to find a way to avoid a scenario where A&E closes at the weekend. I am determined this matter should be resolved. The Trust really needs to get its act together.”