Belfast Telegraph

A&E ‘chaos’ at Ulster Hospital sparks row

Patients were left lying for hours in the back of ambulances outside the Ulster Hospital’s accident and emergency department because it was unable to cope with the number of admissions, it has been claimed.

As a result a decision was taken to divert all ambulances in the South Eastern Trust to hospitals in Belfast for nearly six hours on Wednesday night.

The development has prompted calls for the South Eastern Trust to review controversial plans to close the A&E at Downe Hospital at night, with emergency care provided at the Ulster Hospital |instead.

Chair of the Stormont health committee Jim Wells said: “This has vindicated the concerns expressed by the Down community. Here we have discovered the hospital supposed to take on patients from the Downe is making people lie on trolleys and turning |patients away.”

An angry member of the public said he witnessed seven ambulances with patients onboard parked outside the A&E for two hours on Wednesday night.

“It’s a disgrace,” he said.

“Basically there wasn’t enough room inside the A&E to admit more patients so they were left in the back of the ambulances. While

the ambulances were sitting there they were tied up and unable to |respond to other emergency calls.

“A staff member I spoke to said it was like Beirut in the A&E with people lying everywhere. I can’t believe they are telling us the |Ulster will be able to cope when the Downe closes at night.”

A spokesman from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) confirmed a protocol for diversion was implemented on Wednesday.

“As a result of annual winter pressures on the entire healthcare system in Northern Ireland, there are times when A&E |departments become stretched,” he said.

“Ambulances arriving at these departments are sometimes faced with delays and NIAS has in place systems and procedures to minimise the impact on our service delivery, seeking also to ensure that receiving A&E departments assist each other at times of severe pressure.

“At approximately 11pm on Wednesday, as a result of pressures being experienced at the Ulster Hospital’s A&E department and the resulting delays experienced by ambulance crews, NIAS implemented its divert protocols to divert all non-life threatening calls away from the Ulster Hospital to neighbouring hospitals |in Belfast.

“The divert remained in place until 4.30am on Thursday.”

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