Belfast Telegraph

People power spurs U-turn on axing of Bangor minor injuries unit

By Victoria O'Hara

A U-turn by the Health Minister on keeping the Bangor minor injuries unit (MIU) open has been heralded a "victory for people power", however campaigners have vowed to fight on to reopen 20 hospital beds.

The Bangor facility was one of three MIUs earmarked for closure last month due to pressures on the health budget.

The proposed shutting of the Bangor MIU and those in Armagh and Whiteabbey were among contingency plans to save millions across health service.

It sparked a major campaign involving the public, unions and politicans calling for Jim Wells to change the decision.

Explaining his U-turn, Mr Wells said: "I have been considering carefully over recent days the activity levels of smaller hospitals and the assistance they offer the larger acute sites during busy periods. This will lessen the numbers attending other units including the busy Ulster Hospital emergency department."

The minister said Bangor MIU dealt with about 10,000 attendances annually and its closure would have offered up only "minimal financial savings".

Peter Weir, North Down MLA, welcomed the move and said it demonstrated the Health Minister "was listening" to the public.

Unison's Patricia McKeown said the campaign will continue.

"The decision to continue with the closure of the 20-bed GP ward is equally reckless.

"If the minister is serious about his intention to relieve the pressure on hospital A&E departments then the retention of the crucial step-down beds in Bangor and elsewhere must be his next decision."

Maria Lourenco, who spearheaded the Save Bangor Community Hospital Campaign, said: "It is good news that the minor injury unit will stay open.

"There has been a lot of hard work to get that achieved and is a victory for people power. But it isn't enough. We need the beds to stay open and will continue to fight and campaign."

The minister said he had asked the trust to keep the option of access to beds at the Bangor site under constant review.

"The South Eastern Trust has a range of intermediate care options available, but clearly if additional capacity is required in the future, reinstating beds in Bangor is one option which could be considered."

The decision to close Armagh and Whiteabbey MIUs remains unchanged.

Background

The Bangor facility was one of three MIUs earmarked for closure last month due to pressures on the health budget.

The proposed closure of Bangor, Armagh and Whiteabbey MIUs were among hard-hitting cuts to health and social care services across Northern Ireland.

A campaign was launched to change the decision.

MIUs treat injuries that are not life-threatening or critical and can deal with broken bones, burns, bites, wounds, minor head injuries and other less serious ailments.

The facilities help to take pressure off hospital A&E units, which should be reserved for seriously ill patients who require emergency care.

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