A public protest is being held at the Dalriada Hospital today (Friday 31st October) at 5pm following the announcement that the Regional MS respite unit in Dalriada Hospital is to close until March 2015.
Since the news was released yesterday (Thursday) the Times has been inundated with calls from the local community and politicians expressing their concern.
In a statement Ballycastle Sinn Féin Councillor, Cara McShane, and one of their organisers of the protest, hit out at the announcement by ‘faceless bureaucrats’ in the Northern Health Trust who delivered a devastating blow to the future of the Dalriada hospital.
Cllr Cara McShane, said: “This announcement is a huge blow to patients, carers, staff and their families. My thoughts are first and foremost with the patients at Dalriada hospital and for the staff who have been left devastated and living in fear of what the future holds.
“While the Trust has laden this service with a heavy cloud for many years, strong community opposition ensured this life-line facility remained opened. However, the men in suits decided to capitalise in the midst of austerity this morning and to finally get their wish to close this hospital in North Antrim.
“The DUP’s Health Minister and the Northern Health Trust can dress this announcement up in whatever fashion they want. It is blatant that this so-called ‘temporary’ closure over the busy winter period is the death knell of this rural community hospital.
“Behind the smoke and mirrors, the decision represents another blow to frontline health provision in this part of the North. It represents further devastating cuts to the most vulnerable people in our community, while those who are making the decisions in middle and senior management appear to grow in number. Although it took five people within the hierarchy of the Trust to make the announcement, a large number of staff learned of the news through the media.
“The closure of all beds at the hospital, including the only MS respite service of this kind in the North is immoral and unjustifiable. I have met users of this facility on many occasions who have told me that life would not be worth living if they did not have this service. This may be heart-breaking to hear, but it is reality for so many people who live with MS.
“I have stated before that the Trust have been deliberately winding down the variety of activities and respite services over recent years in an attempt to make the facility less attractive for users and to bring user figures down, in order to complete their task of closing this Unit. This is exactly the fruits of their labour coming to bear today.”