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Patient fears grow over plan to close Causeway Hospital A&E at night-time

Lives could be put at risk if A&E at the Causeway Hospital is closed after midnight, it has been claimed
Lives could be put at risk if A&E at the Causeway Hospital is closed after midnight, it has been claimed

By Lisa Smyth

The emergency department at one of Northern Ireland’s busiest hospitals could be on the verge of closing its doors overnight — raising fears that lives will be put at risk.

Politicians representing constituents in the Northern Health & Social Care Trust area say they believe proposals are being considered to shut the A&E at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine between midnight and 7am.

Anyone with a medical emergency between these hours would be taken to the casualty units at Antrim Area Hospital or Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry instead.

The plans emerged during a debate at Stormont on the future of the Causeway Hospital and have further fuelled speculation that acute services there will be axed as part of a review of health and social care in the province.

It comes after Health Minister Edwin Poots told the Belfast Telegraph he believes emergency care could be delivered at the hospital in a similar model to the one in place at the Downe Hospital — where the A&E closes overnight and at weekends.

Speaking during the debate, South Antrim MLA Danny Kinahan said he had spoken to chief executive of the trust, John Donaghy, who told him the “only cut coming is the removal of blue light services from the Causeway between midnight and 7am”.

DUP MLA David McIlveen said limiting the department’s hours “will be like playing a game of Russian roulette”.

“If you get sick before midnight, you are safe. If you get sick after midnight, you are playing a very dangerous game,” he said.

SDLP MLA John Dallat, who called for the debate, said he was not reassured by the response of Mr Poots in response to the concerns raised by his Stormont colleagues.

Mr Poots told Members no decision has yet been reached by the trust in relation to the future of the accident and emergency department or acute services at the Coleraine hospital.

The Northern Trust also released a statement saying “at this point no decisions have been made”.

Kim Hall, branch secretary for Unison at Causeway Hospital, said: “Our members are very concerned. Taking away 24-hour emergency care will put lives at risk. There are a lot of people who are very worried about their jobs as well.”

Heads must roll for failings, says MLA

A member of the Stormont health committee has called for someone to be made accountable for the failings at Antrim Area Hospital.

Alliance MLA Kieran McCarthy was speaking after two independent reviews of care at the hospital highlighted a startling series of failures compromising patient safety.

The issues included patients being treated in inappropriate settings, an under-staffed accident and emergency ward and GPs having to wait up to six months to find out what treatments their patients need after leaving hospital.

During an evidence session on the issue at the committee yesterday, Mr McCarthy said: “Someone has to be accountable for the mess at Antrim.

“We are talking about action plans and moving forward, but it should never have got to the situation where this was necessary, and someone somewhere has to carry the can for it.”

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