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Michelle Gildernew slams top doctors’ call to halve hospitals

By Lisa Smyth

The chair of the Stormont health committee has hit out at doctors’ leaders after they called for the number of acute hospitals in Northern Ireland to be halved.

The British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland said the current number of acute hospitals is not sustainable and does not deliver the best service to people across the country.

Speaking at a Press conference in Belfast yesterday, the chairs of BMA (NI) committees said there are currently too many acute hospitals in Northern Ireland.

Dr Paul Darragh, chair of the BMA Council, said: “There needs to be a realistic look at what services we actually need and how we provide those services as modern medicine.”

He said BMA wants the creation of centres of excellence where top-class treatments can be delivered with local hospital support.

“The exact setting and the exact number of centres that provide this service is up for discussion and we are more than happy to talk to the minister about service delivery,” he said.

Dr Brian Dunn, chair of the BMA (NI) GP committee, said: “Northern Ireland's health service is in financial difficulty and I think we need radical solutions.

“We need less acute hospitals because people in Northern Ireland are going to have to make a decision — do they want local hospitals and outdated treatment or do they want less hospitals that have the most up-to-date medical treatment that will give better treatment and better survival after serious illnesses?”

However, health committee chair Michelle Gildernew branded the comments as “shortsighted”.

“We need to be more imaginative than closing down services,” the Sinn Fein MLA said.

“We need to look at centres such as the Altnagelvin Cancer Unit to see that all-Ireland co-operation can support increased provision that delivers for local communities as one such success to be repeated.

“The attitude of Dr Dunn and the BMA is quite shortsighted and does not account for access |to acute hospitals across the |north.

“The simple fact is there is not the infrastructure to support his proposals.

“The previous health minister outlined so-called efficiency savings in the Northern Trust area which would lead to a black |hole in medical provision for that area.

“Taken alongside cuts to ambulance provision, sections of |mid Ulster are reverting back towards Third World provision for health.

“If this were repeated with five other hospitals as Dr Dunn would see fit then we really would be in a health provision crisis.”

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