Belfast Telegraph

Poots to meet health chiefs as care home closure threat anger intensifies in Northern Ireland

By Lisa Smyth

Stormont minister Edwin Poots will meet health bosses today to discuss the potential sweeping closures of trust care homes.

The DUP minister said the way the issue had been handled was "a disaster".

He was speaking after a third health trust confirmed on Thursday that it planned to shut all of its homes.

The head of the worst performing health trust in Northern Ireland has been axed after a series of shocking failings in patient care.

Sean Donaghy has been replaced as chief executive of the Northern Health & Social Care Trust after months of speculation over his future in the post.

The medical director of the struggling trust, Dr Peter Flanagan, is also stepping down.

The trust has lurched from one crisis to another in recent years – despite a series of interventions to improve patient safety.

Most recently consultants working at Antrim Area Hospital branded the A&E there "ineffective and unsafe".

It followed the high profile sacking of the chair of the trust, Jim Stewart, in December, over repeated failures to address lengthy waiting times.

Latest government figures revealed the A&Es at Antrim Area and Causeway hospitals continued to struggle to meet targets set out by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Between January and March, 755 patients waited longer than 12 hours in the A&E at Antrim Area, while there were 263 12-hour breaches at the Causeway.

Last year Health Minister Edwin Poots said all trusts had to eliminate 12-hour waits in three months, adding that "heads would roll" if targets were not met.

Mr Donaghy took up the post in September 2010 following the resignation of Norma Evans who brought forward her planned retirement after the trust identified a substantial overspend of £3.6m.

Announcing the removal of Mr Donaghy, Mr Poots said he has appointed two new officials to the post of chief executive as a result of findings of a team put in place to help improve performance. The Turnaround and Support Team was appointed in December over the minister's concerns, particularly about A&E times.

Mr Donaghy has been replaced on temporary secondment by two members of the team, Mary Hinds from the Public Health Agency and Paul Cummings of the Health & Social Care Board (HSCB).

Mr Poots said: "My overriding concern is to ensure the trust can meet the needs of the population it serves, and can provide acceptable experiences for patients, safe, high quality services, and a resolution of the problem of long waiting in the emergency department."

Mr Donaghy is to take up a post with the HSCB as regional director of Health and External Collaboration.

Meanwhile, Dr Flanagan said he intends to retire next year and he will work to support the new interim medical director until a permanent appointment is made.

Belfast Telegraph


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