THERE are fears that up to 100 local jobs will be lost after the Health Minister last week confirmed that health service administration will be transferred from Newtonards and Bangor to offices across Northern Ireland.
Strangford MLA Alderman Kieran McCarthy expressed his "extreme disappointment and disgust at the outcome" of last Monday's assembly meeting when the Minister, Edwin Poots, confirmed the Shared Services proposals would be implemented. This means health service jobs will be transferred to Belfast, Ballymena, Armagh and Omagh.
Mr McCarthy denounced the consultation period between early December and February as a "rush job".
Even so, over 2,000 members of the public registered their opposition to the proposal.
He said roughly 100 jobs will go and he has consistently opposed the move which leaves workers the option of transferring to offices which are further away or losing their jobs. He says it will "mostly affect women in low paid jobs who have families."
People working in the Downpatrick office will have a two year reprieve.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said the new model along with new systems "will support a consistently high standard of modern corporate services".
Mr Poots said: "But, more importantly, systems implementation and shared services together will generate savings of almost -pound;120million over a 10-year period, with annual savings rising to -pound;17million per annum. It is vital for the welfare of patients that we free up that money, as it will be redeployed to the front line of health and social care."
Mr McCarthy said there is no proof the changes will save the money the Minister claims and "furthermore an equality assessment was far from satisfactory".
He said: "In my opinion the decision goes against the majority of consultations."
Public service union Unison stated that trade unions had advocated that new technology systems should be embedded before the decision to move was confirmed. "We did so on the grounds of serious concern for those who will face compulsory relocation or redundancy that will undoubtedly arise as a result of this approach," said a spokesperson.
"Many women occupying the lower paid grades to be affected will be disappointed that their lobbying was largely ignored."
Anne Speed, head of bargining and representation at Unison NI revealed that all the Union representatives are meeting to discuss the issue today (Wednesday, May 23).
SDLP Health spokesperson Conall McDevitt MLA joined the condemnation of the move: "We are deeply concerned that young working mothers are being forced to pay for inefficiencies within the Health Service."
"The Minister should be making those responsible for these inefficiencies shoulder the burden, rather than low paid workers," he added.
"His decision will mean that these employees will have to travel a greater distance to work, for no greater pay, or will be out of work.
"The proposed locations for the new 'centres of excellence' are open to interpretation and it appears that there has been an attempt to just rush these changes through with little consideration having been given to the welfare of staff."