Health Minister Edwin Poots has come under strong attack in the Assembly over the ongoing crisis at Antrim Area Hospital’s accident and emergency unit.
And MLAs heard the DUP minister “might have to be replaced” if the situation does not improve.
Mr Poots admitted staff at the hospital are facing “huge pressures” but pledged to return to inform MLAs of new proposals from a ‘turnaround team’ at the hospital. Ulster Unionists, however, argued that unless Mr Poots could achieve an improved nurses to beds ratio, his position would be called into question.
The party’s Danny Kinahan said: “Staff are not getting breaks during 12-hour shifts, and people are being brought in from midwifery, gynae and anywhere they can to help when eight to 10 ambulances are waiting outside.
“Will the minister put in more resources to get more nurses per bed so that we have a hospital that can function? If not, it is time that we had someone else running the department. At the moment, it is going horribly wrong.”
But Mr Poots said he was still dealing with the “mess” he inherited from the former Ulster Unionist Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey.
Traditional Unionist Voice MLA Jim Allister asked whether a new extension to the accident and emergency department included provision for any new beds “or will we simply provide more space for people to continue to lie on trolleys?”
But yesterday Mr Poots told him: “I am somewhat surprised that the Member should ask such a question because he represents North Antrim, and, of course, people from there use this facility. A brand new 24-bed unit opened last week, and everybody knew that it was in the pipeline.”