Lesss than 12 hours after the closure of Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey A&Es, the pressure was |beginning to show at Antrim Area Hospital.
The waiting room leading to the hospital’s A&E was last night overflowing with patients, concerned relatives and friends — many of whom were forced to stand because of a lack of seating.
Cramped and stuffy, it was a scene which seemed to contradict claims made by the Northern Trust that adequate resources have been put in place to prepare for the increased number of |patients following the closure of acute emergency services at Whiteabbey and Mid Ulster hospitals.
Colin Matchett from Whiteabbey came to Antrim Area Hospital with his friend, who had been suffering from chest pains.
He said: “He has had the pains since Sunday but thought it was indigestion but it still hasn’t gone away, so we thought we better come to the hospital.
“He got through fairly quickly but it’s about four hours since we got here and I have been sitting here ever since.
“We didn’t really know what hospital to go to after the changes, so we thought we better come directly here.
“You understand there are limitations about what can be done, but things seem to be getting worse in the health service.
“It would have been much easier to go to Whiteabbey. We’re only two minutes up the road.
“The drive up here took half- an- hour, which would have been horrible if it was something serious.”
Eileen Kerr from Draperstown accompanied her daughter to the hospital when her granddaughter fell ill.
She said: “Travelling down that road with someone really sick has to be something else.
“Everyone is going to miss the Mid Ulster.
“My daughter went through with my granddaughter.
“She came back and said I should go home because there were other children there who had been waiting for over five hours.
“It isn’t very nice in here. It’s cramped and warm.
“I feel for the nurses, I’m sure they’re ready to tear their hair out.”
One man, who drove his wife to Antrim Area’s casualty as she was suffering from chest pains, said: “We’re from Cookstown and if it had happened yesterday we would have gone to the Mid Ulster.
“It wasn’t a very pleasant drive. I don’t really know how long it took as I was driving that hard.”
He added: “By the look of things it could be a long wait.”
Another man, sitting next to him, explained: “I’m from Randalstown and was here on Friday and got stitches in my hand and one of them has burst.
“The staff here are brilliant and they don’t let the pressure get to them.
“It’s unfair to expect them to work with this extra burden. I’ve a feeling I could be here for quite a few hours for something that is only going to take a couple of minutes.”
Tracey McKeown and Colin McClurken had only arrived in the waiting room and remarked on the cramped conditions that awaited them.
“It’s as busy as I’ve ever seen it,” said the Antrim man.
“It’s obvious they are not going to be able to cope.”