TUV Leader Jim Allister has accused the health minister of moving to rundown the Causeway Hospital to the point that it is a ‘mere satellite outpost of Altnagevlin’.
Mr Alister hit out at Edwin Poots saying: “In the course of his statement Mr Poots said “I am clear that there is merit in examining the benefits of strengthened networks between the Northern and Western Trusts or by possibly transferring responsibility to the Western Trust, if that were to work better.’
“Interestingly, DUP colleagues followed up by peddling the idea: Mr McQuillan MLA asked the minister to ‘outline the benefits of transferring the responsibilities of the Causeway Hospital from the Northern Trust to the Western Trust?’ and George Robinson made a similar point. Yet, a few months ago such politicians were marching to ‘Save our Hospital’!
“It is, therefore, clear to me that this is the direction in which the Minister wishes to move and that the scene is being set to downgrade the Causeway in this fashion. As I put it to the Minister if he was listening to the stakeholders, as expressed at several public meetings, he would be underwriting, not undermining the Causeway. The gameplan to rundown acute services at the Causeway was very clear from Mr Poots’ declaration that “There will be a gravity pull towards Altnagelvin Hospital for many of its services…”
“This is ministerial speak for drastic reduction of services in Coleraine.
“It is also clear that, in addition to drastically reducing A & E services, the consultant led maternity unit is targeted for closure. This too is unacceptable for a hinterland which stretches to the Glens, Ballycastle and Ballymoney.
“Saying to expectant mothers in these areas that they must travel to Altnagelvin is a betrayal of the promise of accessible services.
“I took the opportunity of the debate to put this point to the Minister, but his response was pitifully inadequate:
“The Minister is going to consultation. Is he listening, or is this just a process that has to be gone through so that we can get to the predetermined outcomes that already exist? Certainly, where the Causeway Hospital is concerned, the omens are not good, because any of the hospital meetings that I have attended would not accord, for those stakeholders, with the Minister’s vision of the hospital as a satellite outpost of Altnagelvin.
“What acute services does he anticipate retaining in that satellite outpost of the Causeway, and what about the rump of the Northern Board? Will it ultimately be rolled into Belfast, where some people seem to think Antrim exists to serve in any event?”