Doctor warns Ballycastle hospital cuts will endanger patients
A doctor has spoken out to warn that patients in Moyle will be "unsafe" and left in an "undignified" situation because of cuts to Dalriada Hospital in Co Antrim.
Dr Mary McLister, a Ballycastle GP who also works at the hospital, has painted a stark picture of the future.
The regional multiple sclerosis respite centre at Dalriada Hospital has 12 beds and will close at the end of November until March next year.
On Monday night up to 1,000 people gathered in Ballycastle to protest at the cuts.
The MS unit is Northern Ireland's only dedicated respite centre.
Local people fear it would effectively mean the closure of the hospital.
Dr McLister said this decision "betrays the whole idea of Transforming Your Care".
She said: "Transforming Your Care is to bring care to people either in their own home or as close as possible, that was what the whole idea of Transforming Your Care was.
"If the unit in Ballycastle is closed I don't know where those patients are going to go. The only option as GPs that we have is to ask the relatives or to ask the ambulance to take those patients and place them on a trolley in an A&E department. There isn't any other option. We have our hands tied."
Dr McLister said the cuts will cause "devastation".
"I know that they feel they have to make cuts. In particular in Ballycastle this is going to cause devastation, it's unsafe for the patients and it's undignified to have to ask these people to go and sit on trolleys where they will have to wait for acute hospital beds."
Dr McLister said the "budget has been taken over and patients have been forgotten".
"The chief executive at the meeting said his first directive when he came in to post was to manage his budget. That appalled me. Surely his first objective must have been to provide dignified and safe medical care to patients in the Northern Area Trust, not to manage his budget."
In response the chief executive of the Northern Trust, Dr Tony Stevens, said ensuring patient safety was equally as important.
He said: "I made it clear I had two priorities and the Northern Trust very clearly has to live within resources they are allocated by the Executive. But I also made it clear that delivering safe services was an equal priority."
"The entire determination of the Northern Trust in delivering service savings which we are required to do is to ensure the services are safe and we are doing that.
"And we are doing that by planning to consolidate our services on fewer sites so we know we have adequate numbers of staff to deliver safe, high quality services particular as we go in to the winter."
Dr Stevens said he had concerns about raising anxiety "unnecessarily".
He said: "We have got to see it in a context. There is a real danger that we are going to stoke up anxiety unnecessarily and we believe what we are doing here is proportionate and reasonable."