Belfast Telegraph

Downgrading Mater A&E would be reckless: Kelly

The Mater Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department will not be downgraded, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has insisted.

The Trust was speaking after rumours that the A&E services at the north Belfast hospital were to be downgraded after the Health and Social Care Board approved its Commissioning Plan for 2010-11.

Sinn Fein’s North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said the reports were “hugely alarming”.

“At a time when trolly waits increase and just after the shock announcement of Whiteabbey A&E being reduced to a minor injuries unit to even consider reducing services at the Mater is reckless.”

He said the Mater had a special place at the heart of the community and was the major employer in an area of high deprivation.

“We are determined to fight tooth and nail for all the services in the Mater to be maintained and improved,” he added.

“The Mater has cross-party and cross-community support and we are calling for that unity to be shown in the time ahead.

“The Health Minister was quick to support the City Hospital's emergency services when he took up office, as it is in his own constituency and this comes as no surprise. He will find the north Belfast community, the health unions and the political leaders no less determined in the battle ahead to save our Mater Hospital.”

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said: “People are rightly suspicious that they are being softened up for the removal of A&E from the Mater. I am calling for a categorical statement from the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey that this is not going to happen. This is an appalling way for a government department to behave, to cast doubt over a major provision of frontline health care in the appendix to a report.”

A spokesman for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said there were no plans to downgrade the A&E services at the Mater Hospital.

A spokesman for the Health and Social Care Board, confirmed that the new Commissioning Plan for 2010-11 had been approved.

“The objective of this is to ensure better outcomes for patients and to maintain safe and sustainable services. Hospital networks will in future be the way forward, combining the roles of local and area-wide hospitals working together to achieve this objective.

“The Board will use Developing Better Services, a plan first published in 2002, as the template for developing such networks, while continuing to use existing hospitals flexibly to meet the needs of local people.

“The Commissioning Plan also signalled that changes will be evolutionary — they are not about hospital closures — and they will take account of modern clinical thinking alongside patient needs and expectations.”

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