Belfast Telegraph

Judge blocks bid to review closure of Mid-Ulster hospital A&E

By Anne Madden

A judge has refused to allow a legal bid to overturn the decision to close accident and emergency services at the Mid-Ulster Hospital on grounds of safety.

Mr Justice Treacy dismissed pensioner John Quinn’s application for leave to seek a judicial review after backing arguments that the decision was taken to ensure public safety.

The judge said Mr Quinn could never have legitimately expected the A&E department to remain open “in the teeth of unequivocal advice ... concerning the potential risk to patients”.

Emergency services at the hospital in Magherafelt were halted in May and replaced with a minor injury unit. That move provoked the legal challenge by Mr Quinn, a 70-year-old from the area.

His legal team submitted that there was a legitimate expectation that an A&E unit would remain there until 2012 when new facilities were due to be completed at Antrim Area Hospital.

They claimed shutting the A&E unit had left Antrim struggling to cope with extra patients. It was argued that no attempt was made to recruit medical staff needed to run services at the Mid Ulster for nearly two years.

But the court also heard five unsuccessful attempts were made in 2008 to recruit new staff.

An active member of campaign group ‘Save The Mid’, Mr Quinn, who has had two heart attacks, decided to take legal action because “someone had to take a stand”.

He and his 74-year-old wife Meta are diabetics and rely heavily on the Mid-Ulster hospital.

Speaking from his home yesterday, Mr Quinn said: “I feel very cross about the decision. The A&E wasn’t supposed to close until 2012 and the alternative hospital in Antrim is unable to cope.”

The father-of-six was unable to attend court yesterday to hear Mr Justice Treacy refuse permission for the judicial review of the decision last May to close the unit. As a result of the refusal, the pensioner said he now felt vulnerable as he claimed he was now more than an hour from an acute hospital.

“We are totally dependent on the unit. If anything were to happen to my wife or I we would have to travel an hour-and-a-half to Belfast, an hour and 15 minutes to Derry and over an hour to Antrim.

“But Antrim can’t cope. We are definitely outside the so-called golden hour.”

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