Protesters pledge 'one hell of a fight' to save Belfast City Hospital A&E
Campaigners have vowed to put up "a hell of a fight" to save Belfast City Hospital's accident and emergency unit from closure.
At a public meeting last night organisers from Nipsa and the Stop the Cuts Coalition heard passionate appeals from members of the public who vowed to fight to keep their A&E department open.
The proposed closure was branded "the most significant proposed cut that we have seen" by Nipsa's Carmel Gates, who chaired the meeting at Ma Nelson's bar on the Lisburn Road, just a few hundred yards from the Belfast City Hospital site.
Around 50 people packed an upstairs section of the bar as they listened to opinions on the planned closure as well as putting forward suggestions on how to fight it.
Padraig Mulholland from the Stop the Cuts Coalition said the campaign against the A&E closure was "a fight to defend jobs, to defend pay, but also to defend services, and ultimately to defend people's lives".
"There's very little doubt that the rest of the health service in Belfast doesn't have the capacity to deal with the cuts and lives will be put at risk and possibly lost," he said.
"Where are people going to go instead (of the City Hospital)?
"The figures put out by the health service themselves show the Royal Victoria Hospital's A&E department dealt with 75,000 people last year, the Mater dealt with 45,000 and the City 42,000. So if they close the City, where do 42,000 people go?"
He called on people to put up "a hell of a fight" to stop Health Minister Edwin Poots going ahead with his proposals, blaming the cuts on bailing out the bankers after the financial crisis.
"We need to give our politicians the message that we are not about to accept them rolling over to dictats from Westminster to fulfil the wishes of bankers in London," he said.
Catherine Arkinson, joint branch secretary of Nipsa at the Belfast Trust, said the closure was being rushed in with only a four-week consultation period instead of the usual three months.
Neil Moore from the NI Student Assembly said a "mass demonstration, across the community divide, of people of all ages" is what's needed to make an impact on political opinion.
Organisers will now start planning a massive protest at Stormont on the first day back after the summer recess, September 12, as well as a petition, posters and online campaign to try to put a stop to the closure.