Dilapidated, unsafe and difficult to access: sad state of local health centre in year 2013
Published 13/04/2013 | 00:00
This is the shocking state of a busy 21st century health centre waiting room where pregnant women and their children wait for appointments.
As the Health Minister announced a plan to spend millions of pounds on state-of-art facilities in Lisburn and Newry, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal the unsafe and dilapidated conditions being endured by patients at Antrim Health Centre.
The building is owned by the Northern Health & Social Care Trust and rented to five GP practices at a cost of more than £90,000 every year.
However, it has emerged that the trust spent only £24,000 between 2009 and 2012 on maintenance and repairs to the building – branded a health and safety hazard by the staff who work there.
Work is under way to improve the interior of the building but one of the doctors who works there has said the plans will not address the health and safety concerns or access for disabled patients.
He also said the work will not bring the building up to the standard required for Transforming Your Care (TYC) – a major review of health and social care in Northern Ireland under which more patients will be seen in the community.
Dr Allen McCullough said: "At the moment, there are parts of the building that aren't safe to be in.
"We have been asking for improvements to be made for years and now the trust is doing something, but we don't think it goes far enough.
"This is work that should have been done 10 or 15 years ago, and we won't be able to deliver the kind of care we are being asked to under TYC."
The photograph shows the waiting area for appointments with a range of health professionals who work in the building, including midwives, dietitians and the practice nurse.
It reveals that little has been done to address concerns of doctors since last July when the Belfast Telegraph first highlighted the extent of the disrepair staff and patients endure on a daily basis.
At the time, broken windows were covered with plastic bags, buckets hung from the ceiling to catch water dripping through light fixtures and the sewers were emptied by dragging a hose across the carpet in the main reception area.
A spokeswoman from the trust said that Antrim Health Centre was surveyed last year under the Patient Experience Project.
"It was recommended that work was required to upgrade the health centre," she said.
"Phase one of this work has been completed which included roofing, windows, glazed screens and automatic external doors to improve disabled access.
"Negotiations with the GPs have been ongoing for some time in an effort to progress phase two and the development of a treatment room."
She said a contractor has been appointed and work will commence on phase two next month, which will include the development of a treatment room, redecoration, reflooring, rewiring and internal disability access improvements.
"This will improve our patients' experience and the environment within the constraints of the existing building," the spokeswoman added.