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A&E closures: tell the truth, says Deeny

By Lisa Smyth

A member of the Stormont health committee has launched a stinging attack on health bosses behind the decision to close casualties at two hospitals.

Dr Kieran Deeny hit out at representatives from the Northern Trust at an evidence session at Stormont yesterday to discuss the closure of the A&E units at Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey hospitals.

The Northern Trust has come under fire for bringing forward the closure of the two departments without consulting staff or the public.

Concerns have been raised about the ability of Antrim Area Hospital to cope with the increased number of patients as a result of the closures.

However, Dr Olivia Dornan, clinical director medicine and emergency medicine at the Northern Trust, told the committee that since June no patients have waited on a trolley in Antrim A&E longer than the 12-hour Government target.

Despite improvements to the emergency medicine service being provided at Antrim, Dr Deeny said people living in rural Mid Ulster were being put at risk.

And he rejected Dr Dornan’s claims that the golden hour rule is primarily linked to the importance of maintaining the airway, breathing and circulation (ABC) of a patient, which she said paramedics can deliver.

“She may be a very experienced hospital doctor but healthcare in the community is obviously beyond her scope,” he said.

“There are many parts of ABC that a paramedic can’t deliver and to say they can is an insult to the people who are having to live with this. I am shocked a senior doctor

would suggest such a thing. For example, if a pregnant woman suffers a ruptured placenta that is an extreme emergency that a paramedic cannot deal with.

“They also can’t ventilate a patient, that can only be done by an anaesthetist.”

Dr Deeny also hit out at statements made by the trust that it was forced to close the A&E departments because of a shortage of doctors willing to work in the hospitals.

“I’m absolutely appalled they keep saying this and feel they are misleading the public by blaming doctors,” he said. “It’s time they told the truth that once you announce acute services are going from a hospital that doctors and nurses will not want to work there because it will ultimately harm their career.

“Doctors need experience to progress and even to continue working they have to demonstrate they have gained the right amount and type of experience.”

Meanwhile, chairman of the committee Jim Wells raised concerns as to whether health bosses should be making key decisions about healthcare on a document published in 2002.

He said Delivering Better Services, which outlines the way healthcare should be delivered and was one of the documents used by the Northern Trust when deciding to close Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey A&Es, would never be accepted by the current Assembly.

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