THE Northern Trust was severely criticised by a delegation of SDLP councillors at a recent meeting with Trust Chief Executive Sean Donaghy.
The Cookstown delegation probed Mr Donaghy on problems at Antrim Area Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department.
Councillors James McGarvey, Christine McFlynn, Tony Quinn and Deirdre Mayo highlighted serious concerns in Mid Ulster and pressed Mr Donaghy on what remedies he intends to take to resolve the problems.
Councillor James McGarvey said: “Antrim Area Hospital now contains the central, and sole, A&E department for the people of Cookstown.
“We felt it was important to be able to question the Chief Executive in person on the measures he intends to implement to address the ongoing problems caused by the centralisation of A&E services without proper planning and without sufficient resources.”
Councillor McFlynn said: “The Chief Executive accepted that patients were waiting too long for treatment, that there were not enough beds and that conditions are too cramped in the current A&E department. He believes that there are enough staff at present and that a new 24 bed unit currently under construction and the new A&E department will significantly improve the situation.”
She added: “However, the new 24 bed unit is not due to be completed until December this year and the new A&E department is not expected before spring 2013. In the meantime Mr Donaghy has agreed to look into the possibility of extending the opening time of the minor injuries unit at Magherafelt Mid Ulster Hospital to help reduce pressure at Antrim A&E.”
Councillor Quinn said: “In the opinion of the Northern Trust’s Chief Executive, 25-30% of the people presenting at Antrim A&E don’t need to be there.
“In addition, he confirmed that the doctor on call system, which was suggested in a meeting between SDLP representatives and the Health Minister last week, has been discussed and progressed with the Trust. According to Mr Donaghy that system will become a reality in a number of weeks.
“Whilst we welcome these measures, we are concerned that they are not sufficient to address the immediate problems at Antrim A&E. Whether Antrim will be able to cope in 2013 with the additional 24 bed unit and the planned new A&E department remains to be seen. What is clear is that the centralisation of A&E services at Antrim without proper planning and without proper resources should not have happened.”