Bangor Community Hospital cutbacks met with vociferous protests
More than 100 local people have turned out in dismal weather conditions to join staff protesting against closures at Bangor Community Hospital.
The protest follows the latest round of budget cuts at Stormont implementing the closure of the minor injuries unit at the hospital and the GPs' ward containing some 20 beds.
Members of the public were joined by local politicians including Alex Easton MLA, parliamentary private secretary to Health Minister Jim Wells.
Local people were still getting over the shock of last year's statement announcing the closure of the minor injuries unit at weekends, Mr Easton said, adding: "This is a temporary arrangement to maintain our weekday service within our current staffing levels, as we are currently experiencing a staff shortage."
The public were told they should consider contacting their own GP or contacting the GP out- -of-hours centre.
Now the unit which treats over 11,000 people a year will be closed before Christmas, inevitably adding to the workload of the already hard pressed accident and emergency facility at Dundonald Hospital.
Green Party MLA Stephen Agnew said; "Whilst the budget constraints are being spun as justification, it has clearly been the intention to wind this vital local service down for some time.
"The diabetes clinic was relocated to Newtownards and asthma to Dundonald.
"I fear the hospital's days are numbered."
Veteran independent councillor Alan Chambers said he was delighted to see a good turnout at the demonstration. "Sadly a hospital ward closure means elderly ill people being wrapped in blankets put on trolleys and transferred by road to another location. It's not a solution to anything - it's just moving the problem," the councillor said.
Meanwhile North Down Borough Council has called a special meeting on Tuesday at 7pm in the Town Hall to which the Health Minister and the chief executive of the South Eastern Health Trust have been invited.