Mother's plea over Belfast A&E cuts
Casualty closure will lead to deaths, public meeting told
The mother of a severely disabled man has said her son could die if Belfast City Hospital's accident and emergency unit closes.
Hazel Bears told a public meeting on the proposed closure it would only be "a matter of time before there is a death" as a result of shutting the unit.
Her 25-year-old son Martin suffers from cerebral palsy and is prone to life-threatening seizures.
Ms Bears, one of the founders of the campaign to prevent the unit's closure, said: "I'm sorry - I haven't got a mile-and-a-half to take that chance. If my son's heart stops in an ambulance I want reassurance we are going to get him to the closest hospital as soon as possible.
"I come to speak as a mum - so many people I've spoken to, their fears are very real. I wish the Health Minister would understand.
"I am not prepared to take a chance with my son's life. I have to be his voice, nothing is going to make me go away."
Earlier this month Belfast Trust chief executive Colm Donaghy said the unit may be forced to shut on a "temporary basis" as early as the end of September.
Belfast residents would then be forced to use services at the Mater and Royal Victoria Hospital.
Politicians and residents gathered in the Richview Regeneration Centre in the south of the city last night to voice their concerns.
Local resident Irene Cowan said she was "disgusted" at the proposed closure.
"By the time you get to the Royal you could be dead. Especially small children that are maybe getting treatment - it's not fair on them," she said.
South Belfast SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt said a decision to close the unit was "completely premature".
"What is blatantly clear is there is no adequate system in place at the Royal Victoria Hospital to absorb the extra number of patients - at the moment it is purely a temporary set-up," he said.
"There will obviously be majorly inadequate coverage for south Belfast.
"Why would you close a perfectly good A&E service when you don't have the physical capacity to deliver an equally good one on the Royal side?"
It was revealed last month that the accident and emergency unit at Belfast City Hospital is expected to close in October.
The proposed closure has been blamed on a lack of consultant doctors available.
The unit is currently used by around 42,000 people each year.