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AN EXPERIENCED health professional from the Ballymoney area has issued a stark warning that if night-time Accident & Emergency Services are removed from the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine the chances of people with life-threatening conditions surviving will greatly reduce.

Professor Hugh McGavock (73), from Cloughmills, a former GP, clinical teacher and Principal Medical Officer in the Department of Health & Social Services, said a reduction in A&E services in Coleraine could have dire consequences.

Professor McGavock told the Times: “If you or your dearest have a life-threatening illness or injury your chance of survival is greatly reduced unless you can reach a medically-staffed emergency unit within an hour of onset of the emergency.

“Research in England has shown that for every 15 minutes over that ‘window of opportunity’ the risk of death rises by 20 per cent in spite of the best efforts of our excellent ambulance paramedics.

“An ambulance journey to Antrim or Altnagelvin takes about an hour under ideal conditions, longer if there is ice or snow or traffic hold-ups.

“As the result of this inevitable delay, a proportion of patients will die unnecessarily or have a much poorer outcome than if treated at Causeway which can manage at least 85 per cent of all life-threatening emergencies.”

Professor McGavock said the following “common emergencies” are at “risk of death”: Severe trauma - falls, road traffic accidents, assaults, fire casualties; internal bleeding; heart attacks; severe acute asthma - especially children; diabetic crises, severe strokes, inhaled foreign bodies - small sweet or peanut, usually a child; acute poisoning; collapse due to salt and water imbalance; and if full maternity services are withdrawn several complications of childbirth will put mother and baby at risk.

Added the professor: “All of these are quite common emergencies and could be you, your child, your partner or your parents. Plans to close Causeway A & E at night are therefore plans which could put people’s lives in jeopardy. In my opinion they are mad, bad and intolerable.”