I write as the former chairman of the now-defunct Northern Health and Social Services Council (NHSSC) to register my disquiet at the suggestion of the chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board, John Compton, to downgrade the Belfast Mater Hospital to one of local status.
Also, as a former in-patient/out-patient of this hospital, I want to highlight the first-class treatment received at the hands of excellent and well-qualified consultants, together with the other dedicated medical and nursing staff.
To even think of reducing this major, acute, teaching hospital to one of lower classification is incomprehensible given the amount of investment in recent years to improve and enhance its facilities which are second-to-none.
In addition, the Mater, because of its location, serves not only a large section of Belfast, but the sizeable populations of Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus and Larne.
I appreciate cutbacks have to be made, but surely not at the expense of downgrading a hospital such as the Mater.
I would, therefore, encourage all public representatives and other interested parties to join with me to ensure that the suggestion being put forward is not allowed to become a firm proposal, never mind it reaching implementation.
One last thought: perhaps the Patient and Client Council (PCC) could make an effort to take a stand on this issue as, since its formation in April 2009, its silence has been deafening. Not even a word about the A&E closures at Whiteabbey and Mid-Ulster. Where is the public voice it is supposed to represent?
THOMAS CREIGHTON MBE
Carrickfergus, Co Antrim