The belief that the proposed closure of City Hospitals A&E department in October is just a temporary measure has been cast into doubt following comments made from the chair of the Stormont Health Committee.
Last week DUP MLA Jim Wells said: “If we are being realistic I don’t think the A&E at the City will ever reopen. History shows us that once these decisions are made and the objections die down they go on to become permanent. If the City Hospital A&E closes for a year it isn’t going to open again.”
Health bosses are currently considering a temporary closure of the A&E department at the City Hospital from October — blaming the reduction on a shortage of senior A&E doctors.
Last Friday (August 12), DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt said: “I have had ongoing discussions with the Minister [Poots] about this issue, and met with him only yesterday alongside council colleagues in Belfast and Castlereagh.
“From the outset it was made clear that there would be a full consultation on A&E services across the whole of Belfast. I understand that proposals will be published by the Trust in the next few weeks, and no long term changes to services will take place unless it is clear that they will be in the best interests of patients.
“My primary concern must be for the wellbeing of patients and those who are using the services in our hospitals. I will want to be reassured, like many others that the Royal Victoria Hospital will be able to cope with any increased volume of patients, from wherever they may come, but I am also reassured that there is a very bright future for the City Hospital and that no staff will lose their jobs.
“It has been reinforced to me that the long-term future of the Belfast City Hospital is absolutely secure. Everyone wants to see the very best 21st Century healthcare delivered to the people of Belfast. If clinical expertise is stretched too thinly then ultimately it will be patients who will suffer from the poorer outcomes.”
Recently, local man Alan Simpson founded the website www.SaveBelfastServices.org in a bid to inform “people of the facts”.
He said: “This website has no link to any political party or movement. We're just ordinary people who have had enough.
“The figures speak for themselves, A&E visits for the year ending March 31, 2011 show Belfast City at 42,356, Lagan Valley at 30,226 and Royal Victoria at 71,956.
“How are already stretched A&E services at the Royal Victoria and Mater hospitals going to cope with another 42,000 patients from the City Hospital, plus several thousand from the Lagan Valley hospital where the A&E service is already closed at night?
“The number of new and unplanned review attendances waiting over 12 hours at emergency care departments in 2010/11 was 7,379 — more than 7 times higher than the number in 2007/08.
“Don't let our own NI politicians go on destroying the health service, especially as there are so many areas in which they failed either to save money or gain additional funds — like not getting a decent settlement from the British Treasury and failing to reduce the number of local councils, MLAs, and government departments.”