Plans to move accident and emergency services for Mid Ulster and Newtownabbey to Antrim Area Hospital in 10 days could cost lives and will result in job losses, frontline staff have claimed.
Health chiefs insist they must replace the emergency medicine units at Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey with minor injury units and move cardiology services to Antrim much sooner than the 2011 deadline to ensure patient safety.
Medical professionals — who were stunned to learn yesterday of the Northern Trust’s plans to centralise services by May 24 — have raised doubts as to whether Antrim Area Hospital will be able to cope with the influx of patients.
And last night Unite regional organiser Kevin McAdam said the proposals will amount to compulsory redundancies for some staff who have no idea where they will be relocated to.
Representatives from Unison, Unite, Nipsa and the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) are planning to meet in the coming days to discuss ways to fight the shock plans. Mr McAdam said: “We don’t accept the trust’s argument this is being done for patient safety. They are hiding behind the argument to push through these cuts.
“This is going to mean staff are relocated and we don’t know yet whether they will be going to Antrim or the Causeway in Coleraine. The trust has said there will be no compulsory redundancies but we’re concerned there could be voluntary redundancies coming. Anyway, asking people to travel an additional 50 miles a day to get to work, particularly those with young children, just amounts to compulsory redundancies.”
Janice Smyth, director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, said it is extremely disappointed the announcement of the changes was made little over a week before the services will be closed.