THE Health and Social Care Board chief has said the consultant-led maternity unit at the Causeway hospital in Coleraine is likely to close in the next three to five years.
John Compton made the comment as a major review into health services in Northern Ireland suggests that the hospital should be taken over by the Western Trust. It is currently run by the Northern Trust.
The health minister, Edwin Poots, says the hospital has staffing problems.
One option being suggested is to create a network of consultants working at Altnagelvin and the Causeway hospitals.
But the regional secretary of Unison, Patricia McKeown, said she is increasingly concerned about the hospital’s future.
“We have a genuine concern about what direction our health service is going in.
“The idea of simply saying that the Causeway hospital, overnight, gets transferred from one trust to another is not going to solve anybody’s problem.
“You make the staffing situation easier by hiring people.
“This business about not having the money is not tenable anymore.
“We have a very large amount of money. We have raided the health care budget beyond reason.
“We don’t spend the money the right way.
“If you really want to deliver the most effective health care system you have a public health system and you start putting more money into prevention so that you have to spend less money on treating people when they are sick.”
The health Minister Edwin Poots said greater networking between Altnagelvin and the Causeway hospitals is a sound idea.
“There are a number of major areas where Altnagelvin hospital will be improving its service.
“So it is logical for people in the Coleraine, Limavady and even Ballymoney area to be coming to Altnagelvin to receive that service instead of going towards Belfast.”
Mr Poots said Unison’s fears are unfounded.
“Unison are currently complaining about how the Northern Trust are managing the Causeway hospital so they can’t have it both ways.
“Networking between Altnagelvin and Causeway would give us a better ability to get consultants at the Causeway hospital.
“The problem is getting consultants to the Causeway hospital.
“It isn’t that we don’t want them or are not prepared to pay for them, that isn’t the problem.
“Were they linked to the Altnagelvin network and had the scale of work and had their skills developed and these were consultants based in the north west of Northern Ireland there is a greater potential to support
A local mother, who is expecting her second child in March said she was horrified about the news.
The woman told the Ballymoney Times: “I had my first baby in Causeway Hospital exactly one year ago on Sunday and I throughout my entire pregnancy I received the best treatment possible.
“The staff were absolutely fantastic and nothing was ever too much trouble.
“Despite being induced and having a difficult labour the medical treatment I received really was second to none.
“The decision to take this service away is truly frightening. My second baby is due in March and the thought of having to drive 40 minutes to another hospital while in labour, or even to keep visiting, just doesn’t bear thinking about.
“Having a child is a scary time for any mother , even without any complications, and you want to be in the safe hands of medical staff as soon as possible.
“Things can go wrong so very very fast and when you’ve watched and felt your little baby grow inside you every second is vital and life-changing.”