International expert lends support

Canadian academic, Dr Peter Coyte an international expert in the areas of health economics, health services evaluation and policy and planning, questioned the rationale behind the closure of the Dalriada hospital, Ballycastle

Dr Coyte, who has undertaken research in the area of palliative care, and home and community care, said: “Community hospitals similar to The Dalriada Hospital in Ballycastle have been closed in many rural areas of Canada and similar cost-effectiveness reasons have been used to justify their closure.

“However a key local benefit is being missed here, which is that small local hospitals retain local access to vital care. Without these locally rooted institutions there is the potential for a spiralling negative impact on local health care systems. Local hospitals offer key provisions which maintain medical expertise and the retention of suitable healthcare professionals in rural areas. They also offer much needed respite for 24/7 carers.”

Dr Coyte continued: “The impact of local hospital closure in Canada has significantly reduced the capacity to deal with rural health issues, which in-turn has contributed to creating two tier rural and urban health care systems. The local assembly in Northern Ireland have an opportunity to revisit this decision and factor in the full benefits of this hospital, it is certainly worth another look. Once facilities like The Dalriada Hospital are closed, even for a short period, there is an almost instance drain in local expertise and health professionals which cannot be easily recovered.”

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Dr Coyte’s words seem to echo the very words of the Northern Health and Social Cares Trusts own report on The Dalriada Hospital in 2008 which appear to stand in direct contradiction to the same Trusts current proposals. The report stated “The work of the Dalriada Community Hospital is at the heart of the Government Community Care Reforms. It is pivotal to the development of Intermediate Care and the provision of locally based care. The hospital plays a key role in preventing acute hospital admissions, nursing and residential home admissions, in assessment and rehabilitation. The Intermediate Care beds (GP beds) relieve the pressure on the Acute Hospital beds ensuring that they are more appropriately used and reduce delayed discharges. The Intermediate Care beds help support government targets on waiting times and enable a more effective response to emergency pressures”.

The retention of The Dalriada Hospitals services are supported by all local local councils, all local MLA’s across the full political spectrum as well as local MP Ian Paisley.