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Steady removal of services at Mater a shame

Published 26/11/2015

The closing down of A&E services at the Mater Hospital on Friday night was yet another step in the Department of Health's plan to drastically cut services at the hospital.

In 2002, an acute McAuley hospital was constructed on the Mater Hospital site at a cost of £17m, provided by the YP Trust, which had built up capital to finance the running of the Mater before it joined the health service. The department made no financial contribution.

It was seen as an outstanding addition to the service of patients, especially in north Belfast, and, importantly, a source of worthwhile employment in one of the most deprived areas of the city.

After construction and before its official opening by Senator George Mitchell in July 2002, the department published a plan recommending that the hospital be downgraded to a community-led unit.

Since then, the department has relentlessly pursued an agenda of removing services from the Mater.

Why did the department allow and encourage the provision of the McAuley building when it clearly had a prior plan to downgrade the hospital? Did it have some other plan undisclosed to the Mater management team?

Whatever the plan, its implementation was halted by the collapse of the Executive, the imposition of direct rule and the public outcry. Sadly, with the restoration of the Stormont Executive, the steady removal of services recommenced. This is particularly ironic since the Mater, under management by its Trust, was - and still is - a model of efficiency and good practice.

To date, 11 specialities have been transferred from the Mater without consultation, or adequate explanation, while the department - extraordinarily - continues to assert that it still considers the Mater to maintain its status as an acute hospital.

It will be too late for protest when its doors are finally closed by the department's hidden agenda.

ANNE MCCOLLUM

Holywood, Co Down

Belfast Telegraph

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