Belfast Telegraph

Hospital upgrade ‘still on track’

The head of the Northern Trust has said he is confident a much-needed extension to the A&E at Antrim Area Hospital will go ahead.

Sean Donaghy has confirmed he believes he will secure the necessary funding for the upgrade.

But he denied the department is experiencing difficulties.

He said: “It is in the nature of emergency services that they are often busy. Antrim Area Hospital A&E is a particularly busy hospital, but it is not struggling to cope.

There was outrage earlier this year when health bosses pressed ahead with controversial plans and closed the A&Es at Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey Hospitals without carrying out the major improvement works at Antrim first.

They argued the move was necessary to protect patient safety but there were claims the facilities at Antrim were inadequate to cope with the increased number of patients as a result of the closures.

Now it has emerged bosses at the Northern Trust believe their bid for funding for the works will be successful.

Speaking at the health committee earlier this week, DUP MLA Jim Wells said: “I had a meeting with Sean Donaghy and he said he is fairly confident they will get the £15m they need, so it is likely the project will go ahead. I think we are fairly close to seeing a contract on this.

“Given the current economic climate that is good news. I think the £15m is a relatively small amount in the overall budget and it has been included in the capital budget in 2010/11 and 2011/12.”

Michelle O’Neill, deputy chair of the committee and a Mid Ulster MLA, welcomed the news and voiced concerns over the current emergency medicine facilities.

“If that happens it is fantastic as I hear regularly they can’t cope, especially at this time of year,” Ms O’Neill said. DUP South Antrim MLA Paul Girvan said he went to Antrim A&E two weeks ago and was concerned by waiting times there.

The most recent figures released by the Northern Trust show no patients have waited on a trolley in Antrim A&E longer than the 12-hour Government target since June.

A spokesman from the health board said it supports the proposed development but stressed the final decision is dependent on the outcome of talks over the budget.

Belfast Telegraph

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