Belfast Telegraph

Council summons casualty chief to explain bed crisis

By Lisa Smyth

The man in charge of Antrim Area Hospital's A&E - which is struggling to cope with patient numbers - has been invited to explain the bed crisis to Antrim Borough Council.

Chief Executive of the Northern Health & Social Care Trust, Sean Donaghy, has been asked to attend a meeting of the council to answer questions about trolley waits at the failing casualty unit.

Trevor Clarke, a DUP Antrim councillor, said he is fully aware of the problems facing patients and staff in the unit. "We are asking the chief executive of the trust to come before the council to discuss this matter," he said.

"This is not a criticism of the staff who are working under very difficult conditions. We believe the blame falls squarely at the feet of management.

"As an elected representative for the area I am fully aware of what is happening.

"Only yesterday I was told about a woman who waited 14 hours in A&E while having a cardiac arrest before she was taken to the cardiac unit."

It emerged last week that staff at some casualty units were asked to discharge patients and cancel operations in order to free up beds, and that the Northern Health & Social Care Trust has written to GPs asking them to refer patients from Newtownabbey to the A&E at the Mater Hospital to ease pressure on Antrim Area Hospital.

Figures released by the Northern Health & Social Care Trust showed that 730 people waited for over 12 hours at the casualty unit at Antrim Area Hospital between December 1 and January 12, an average of 17 patients each day.

A local GP, Josef Kuriacose, said the situation was unacceptable.

"One patient waited eight hours to be seen," he said.

"If you are ill in this area, it's just horrible. If I became ill I'd have to go to Antrim A&E and I don't want to go there."

Last week, a spokeswoman from the trust apologised to anyone who has had to wait for a bed at Antrim Area Hospital.

"At busy times we accept that patients who have been assessed as needing a bed may have to wait on trolleys in the emergency department. Our key priority remains ensuring that all patients receive safe, reliable care."

Background

Problems at the Antrim Area Hospital A&E are not new. Last May, Dr Brian Patterson, a leading NI doctor, said the unit was worse than a Belfast city centre hospital during the height of the Troubles. The damning indictment came as the Belfast Telegraph revealed that 2,426 patients were left waiting over 12 hours in the A&E over a 12-month period.

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