Belfast Telegraph

Top medic warns of disaster if Causeway Hospital's A&E unit gets the axe

By Lisa Smyth

There will be catastrophic consequences if health bosses remove acute services from the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, a retired surgeon with four decades of experience has warned.

Dr John Robb — one of a number of doctors who campaigned for a new hospital in Coleraine from the late 1970s — said the move would put lives at risk.

The performance of Northern Ireland’s health service has come under the spotlight again as official end-of-year figures revealed five health trusts failed to meet Government targets on accident and emergency waits between April 2011 and March 2012.

Statistics to be presented to the Health & Social Care Board on Thursday show that the Northern and Belfast Health and Social Care Trusts were the worst two performers in the last financial year.

According to the figures, 4,061 people waited longer than 12 hours to be admitted, treated or discharged in the Northern Trust, where the Causeway and Antrim Area Hospitals are located.

Only 76% of patients were treated and discharged or admitted within four hours. A target set by the Department of Health states that 95% of patients should be treated and discharged or admitted within four hours of arriving at A&E.

Dr Robb warned the situation will deteriorate further and said major events — such as the North West 200 road races and Northern Ireland International Airshow in Portrush — would be put at risk if the Causeway Hospital lost its acute status.

There are fears that health bosses will remove the acute services, such as the A&E department, from the Causeway under the Transforming Your Care review.

Speaking ahead of a Stormont debate on the future of the hospital today, Dr Robb said: “Having worked as a surgeon in the Causeway Hospital's predecessor, campaigned for the new Causeway Hospital not so long ago, and having been an inpatient, outpatient and visitor in the Causeway Hospital, I wish to express dismay at the current proposal to remove its A&E unit.

“I don’t think it is a good idea to have people who have no medical experience running the health service, making decisions, and trying to recruit staff.

“Nobody who has a nine-to-five philosophy and sits in an office all day knows what the health service needs.

“Getting rid of the A&E at the Causeway Hospital would be catastrophic and would certainly put people’s lives at risk particularly when it comes to emergency situations — such as the one encountered at the NW 200 where they need immediate resuscitation.”

Dr Robb’s comments come just weeks after another senior doctor warned of the dangerous consequences of closing services at the Causeway Hospital.

Dr Owen Finnegan, a consultant physician, said any attempt to cut acute services at the Causeway Hospital will lead to “significant health risk” and “significant deterioration in the delivery and standard of healthcare”.

Background

Health Minister Edwin Poots said that from April last year, 95% of patients attending A&E departments should either be treated and discharged, or admitted within four hours of arriving at the unit — and no patient should wait longer than 12 hours.

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