Firefighters free patients from lift in new £25m health centre in Ballymena
Two men were trapped in a lift at the £25m Ballymena Health and Care Centre before it was even officially opened.
It has emerged that a fortnight prior to Health Minister Simon Hamilton unveiling a plaque to declare the building open last Thursday, a lift broke down trapping the two men for more than an hour.
The centre had been operating for a number of weeks ahead of the ceremony.
But within days of the hi-tech facility on Cushendall Road welcoming patients, firefighters had to be called to rescue the men from the new lift on Thursday, February 4.
That was a whole two weeks before the grand official opening in front of assembled dignitaries including Stormont Finance Minister Mervyn Storey and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council mayor Billy Ashe.
A source said last night: "It was all very embarrassing that even before the minister had declared it open there was a major fault trapping people for more than an hour.
"You would think that if you spent £25m on a new flagship health and care centre you would want things to be working.
"But two patients got trapped in a lift for more than an hour after it broke down.
"Firefighters were called and used a hydraulic cutting device to prise open the brand new doors of the lift
"That left the lift out of order, and it is still out of action awaiting doors coming from Europe at a cost of £5,000."
A spokeswoman for the Northern Health Trust said: "We apologise for any distress caused to the two people who were recently trapped in a lift for approximately one hour.
"When the alarm was raised the supplier of the lift was contacted, as was the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, which responded immediately to bring about their safe release."
At last Thursday's ceremony, Mr Hamilton said: "There is an impressive range of services being provided each and every day from this new health and care centre.
"It's an incredible list of services that are being provided here - everything from diagnostics, physiotherapy, podiatry, dental services, and mental health clinics.
"And it is particularly good to see we have six GP practices operating from this new health and care centre. It really is 'a one-stop shop' for health and care services in this area."
Mr Hamilton paid tribute to the Northern Trust, project board, the architects, builders and all others involved for the "efforts put in over a long period of time to make this vision a reality".
Martin Kelly of the Health & Social Care Board said: "By accommodating a range of primary care, community and diagnostic services, it is very much at the heart of the community delivering care closer to home and in an environment benefiting the 21st century."
And Northern Trust chief executive Tony Stevens said: "The health and care centre is a superb facility that will greatly enhance the services that we provide to the people of Ballymena."