Campaign to save Mater Hospital after changes to A&E service
A campaign to save the Mater Hospital has been launched after health bosses stopped children being treated at the A&E.
Children under 14 will instead be transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC) for the foreseeable future.
Unions, angered by the changes to paediatric services, have organised a protest on Thursday at the north Belfast hospital.
Ambulances have also been 'temporarily' stopped from attending the A&E from 6pm to 8am.
The plans to protest were announced following an emergency meeting among union members yesterday.
The action has been sparked after the Belfast Trust confirmed on Friday they would be introducing "temporary measures".
But overnight ambulance diversions and the redirection of children from the Mater's emergency department are set to continue, the Assembly heard yesterday.
Health Minister Simon Hamilton told MLAs at Stormont that staffing difficulties meant there is unlikely to be any immediate change.
He said: "Overnight ambulance diverts from the Mater are expected to remain in place as a temporary measure and children will be re-directed to the nearby Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children." Consultants had gone to the medical director of the Belfast Trust earlier last week to voice concerns at the Mater A&E over a lack of middle grade doctors and a possible impact on safety.
Mr Hamilton added: "If clinicians are coming to me or my department and they are saying the service as it is being run in the short or longer term is unsafe, then I have a duty to listen to them and I have a duty to act."
Despite the Trust describing it as a temporary situation, unions have expressed serious concerns about the impact the move will have on staff at the Royal.
Unison called the moves "unacceptable". There are further concerns it could be a "prelude to attempts to close the Mater site".