Mater ambulances are diverted to RVH due to safety fears
Grave concerns raised by consultants over safety fears at the Mater emergency department have led to ambulances being diverted to the Royal Victoria Hospital.
The Belfast Telegraph understands five consultants went to the medical director of the Belfast Trust earlier this week to voice concerns about the Mater A&E, sparked by a lack of middle grade doctors.
Crisis talks were held with health bosses yesterday.
Following a meeting also involving staff and health chiefs, the Trust issued a statement outlining "temporary measures" and insisted the Mater was "safe".
The Belfast Trust last night confirmed that out-of-hours ambulances will now be redirected from the Mater's emergency department to the RVH's between 6pm and 8am.
Children under 14 are also not to be treated in the Mater. Instead they will be transferred to Belfast Children's Hospital (RBHSC).
Despite the Trust describing it as a "temporary" situation, however, unions have expressed serious concerns about the impact the move will have on staff at the RVH coping with additional cases and on patient safety.
Unison have also said they are worried it could be a "prelude to attempts to close the Mater site".
Ray Rafferty, from Unison based in the RVH site said: "We have grave concerns about this. This is about the shortage of doctors, this is again what was raised about the City Hospital prior to it closing.
"It is still 'temporarily closed' after three years. The Trust has said that is not their intentions but we as a union still have very grave concerns about that."
Mr Rafferty added that he was also concerned about the changes to paediatric patients.
"The most damning thing in the statement is that paediatric patients will be redirected from the Mater - to me that says from now on no children go to the Mater. I think it is a prelude to an attempt to close the Mater and I would be very worried about that."
He also said the move comes ahead of winter pressures on health services.
The Belfast Trust statement said that the Mater is "a safe hospital with excellent services and highly committed staff".
"The senior medical doctors working in the emergency department at the Mater Hospital have raised vulnerabilities in the current service out-of-hours.
"Given these concerns, a temporary arrangement has been put in place to divert out of hours ambulances from the Mater Hospital's emergency department to the RVH's emergency department between 6pm through to 8am."
The statement added: "We also recognise that the best practice care for children under 14 would be through the Belfast Children's Hospital (RBHSC) which is in close proximity to the Mater.
"Going forward all paediatric patients (up to the age of 14) will be redirected to the Children's Hospital (RBHSC) at all times."