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Uproar over decision to mix hospital wards

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Patients and carers of people being treated in a Belfast psychiatric hospital have slammed controversial plans to mix male and female wards.

The Belfast Health Trust has decided to push forward with the money-saving move to merge the Dorothy Gardiner and Rathlin acute admissions wards at Knockbracken Hospital despite opposition from families.

The idea, which contradicts Labour’s pledge to abolish mixed sex wards, could save the trust as much as £1m.

It was first mooted last December but, after a meeting with concerned relatives, hospital managers promised to review the proposals.

Last night, however, the Belfast Telegraph obtained confirmation that the plans were going ahead this weekend to the dismay of patients’ families.

Community worker Sid Trotter, whose 26-year-old daughter is being treated for schizophrenia in the Rathlin ward, said he was “terrified” by the prospect of mixed wards.

It is understood psychiatrists and staff on both wards are furious at the decision but have been told to remain tight-lipped.

The Assembly’s health committee is expected to discuss the issue when it convenes at Stormont this afternoon.

Mandy Thompson, whose 27-year-old daughter was discharged earlier this week, said she believed vulnerable patients were “being thrown to the wolves” as part of a cost-cutting exercise.

She fears patients could be exposed to abuse, harrassment and intimidation if the wards were mixed.

George Bennett, who has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and has attempted to take his own life four times, said he would not want to return to Knockbracken if the wards were mixed.

In a statement the Belfast Health Trust said: “Although the way we will deliver care in Rathlin is in line with best practice, we recognise that this may be a change for some people.”

A spokesman said managers would inform relatives about the changes tomorrow and the trust would find alternative accommodation for anyone who did not want to be treated in a mixed ward.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph