‘I don’t attack most vulnerable,’ declares health chief in meeting about Ballycastle’s Dalriada Hospital

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A HEALTH chief has hit back at criticism from Moyle Council regarding cuts at Ballycastle’s Dalriada Hospital, writes Nevin Farrell.

Moyle Council Chairperson, Cllr Cara McShane, claimed the “most vulnerable in our community are being attacked” in a bid to make millions of pounds worth of savings.

However, speaking at a meeting of Moyle Council, Paul Cummings - Senior Director of Corporate Management at the Northern Health Trust - said: “I refute we are attacking the most vulnerable. I don’t come into my job every day to attack the most vulnerable in society”.

Mr Cummings said he was brought in to turn around performances in the Trust and he was also asked to bring down a projected deficit of £16 million this year to £12 million.

He said his intention is to achieve that by looking at areas which he claimed would not impact on patient care or frontline services.

Mr Cummings said the average occupany of 32 available beds at Dalriada Hospital over the last six months was 23 and as such, with a new medical model in place, he believed the number of beds could be reduced without reducing care.

Some of those beds affected are used by Multiple Sclerosis patients for respite care away from their families but Mr Cummings said that, as per the tradition at Dalriada Hospital just before Christmas, all the MS beds will be used for that period this year.

Cllr Padraig McShane said that was “really only a wee bit of jingle bells at Christmas” from the Trust but that really services are reducing.

Other councillors including Joan Baird and Cara McShane believed the MS unit was being “undermined” and they questioned the statistics.

Cllr Baird said respite beds for the elderly are also affected. She added: “I feel so very annoyed about this. It’s a shame this saving is going to fall on old people’s shoulders”.

Mr Cummings said the Trust believes they can work with a reduced number of beds and said that over the years MS patients wanted respite closer to home rather than travelling a distance to Ballycastle.

* Meanwhile, Cllr Baird claimed there was a case locally of an elderly person going eight weeks without breakfast after their carer became ill. Mr Cummings asked her to supply details.

* And Cllr Baird further claimed it can take some people locally up to four weeks to get a GP appointment. Mr Cummings said he does not directly control GPs but that he believed it should be within one or two days.