Hospitals 'will not cope' with overflow from axed A&E unit
The former Health Minister has warned patients they will wait longer for emergency treatment in Belfast if plans to close the A&E at the City Hospital go ahead.
The casualty department at the City Hospital currently treats over 40,000 patients every year who will have to go elsewhere when the unit shuts in less than seven weeks.
However, Michael McGimpsey said the changes are being pushed through too quickly and he does not believe the A&E departments at the Royal Victoria, Mater and Ulster hospitals will cope as a result.
“I remain unconvinced this is the appropriate decision and I don’t think it has been properly thought out,” he said.
“I don’t believe the capacity will be there and the burden on staff will be intolerable, and there will be an increase in waiting times in the A&Es as a result.”
His comments come after his successor, Edwin Poots, refused to reveal whether there will be a reduction in hospital beds as a result of the controversial changes.
Speaking at Stormont yesterday afternoon, Mr Poots outlined reasons for the closure and stressed it will improve patient safety.
He said there will be more senior doctors on hand in the Royal and Mater A&Es who will be able to supervise junior doctors and make clinical decisions.
Mr Poots said this will mean patients will move more quickly through the casualty units.
However, the mood became tense as SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt challenged Mr Poots on the issue of capacity.
He repeatedly asked the minister to state the number of beds that will be available in the remaining two A&Es following the closure of the casualty unit at the City Hospital.
Mr Poots said: “In terms of beds, I think the member is on the wrong focus. It’s about the people actually manning the hospital wards.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey accused management at Belfast Health & Social Care Trust of failing to deal with the staffing problems being blamed for the closure of the unit.
“Where has management been over the last two years when this issue came up?” he asked.
“I am not interested in getting an answer today but I do think there are fundamental flaws.”
Last Wednesday, the board of directors at the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust approved a proposal to temporarily close Belfast City Hospital’s A&E. The decision was reached after concerns were raised over patient safety and teaching standards at the unit. The body responsible for placing medical students in training posts said it was not happy about the supervision of junior doctors working in the A&E. However, management said they cannot recruit enough senior doctors.